Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act

The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) is a United States law that protects firearms manufacturers and dealers from being held liable when crimes have been committed with their products. However, both manufacturers and dealers can still be held liable for damages resulting from defective products, breach of contract, criminal misconduct, and other actions for which they are directly responsible in much the same manner that any U.S.-based manufacturer of consumer products is held responsible. They may also be held liable for negligent entrustment when they have reason to know a gun is intended for use in a crime.

Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act
Great Seal of the United States
Other short titlesChild Safety Lock Act of 2005
Long titleAn Act to prohibit civil liability actions from being brought or continued against manufacturers, distributors, dealers, or importers of firearms or ammunition for damages, injunctive or other relief resulting from the misuse of their products by others.
Acronyms (colloquial)PLCAA
NicknamesProtection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act of 2005
Enacted bythe 109th United States Congress
EffectiveOctober 26, 2005
Public law109-92
Statutes at Large119 Stat. 2095
Titles amended
U.S.C. sections created15 U.S.C. ch. 105 §§ 7901, 7902, 7903
U.S.C. sections amended18 U.S.C. ch. 44 §§ 921, 922, 924
Legislative history
  • Introduced in the Senate as S. 397 by Larry Craig (RID) on February 16, 2005
  • Passed the Senate on July 29, 2005 (65-31 Roll call vote 219, via
  • Passed the House on October 20, 2005 (283-144 Roll call vote 534, via
  • Signed into law by President George W. Bush on October 26, 2005

The PLCAA is codified at 15 U.S.C. §§ 7901–7903.


In the years before passage of the act, victims of firearms violence in the United States had successfully sued manufacturers and dealers for negligence on the grounds that they should have foreseen that their products would be diverted to criminal use.[1]

In 1998, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley sued gun makers and dealers, saying: "You can't expect the status quo on businesses which make money and then have no responsibility to us as citizens."[2] The city of Bridgeport, Connecticut, also sued several gun companies. Mayor Joseph Ganim said that the city's action aimed at "creating law with litigation.... That's the route that we're going because [the industry has] always very effectively, with big money, lobbied the legislature and kept laws from being passed."[3]

In 2000, Smith & Wesson, facing several state and federal lawsuits, signed an agreement brokered by President Bill Clinton, in which the company voluntarily agreed to implementing various measures in order to settle the suits.[4][5] The agreement required Smith & Wesson to sell guns only through dealers that complied with the restrictions on all guns sold regardless of manufacturer, thus potentially having a much wider potential impact than just Smith & Wesson.[6]

HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo was quoted as saying that gun manufacturers that did not comply would suffer "death by a thousand cuts", and Eliott Spitzer said that those who didn't cooperate would have bankruptcy lawyers "knocking at your door".[7]

In January 2005, New York City passed a law allowing lawsuits against gun manufacturers and dealers that did not voluntarily implement certain gun control measures.[8]

Legislative historyEdit

A similar measure had been rejected by the Senate on March 2, 2004, after it had been combined with an extension to the assault weapons ban into a single piece of legislation.[citation needed]

The act was passed by the U.S. Senate on July 29, 2005, by a vote of 65–31.[9] On October 20, 2005, it was passed by the House of Representatives with 283 in favor and 144 opposed.[10]

The final bill passed only after adding an amendment that mandated safety locks on handguns, and after preventing the renewal of the assault weapons ban from being added.[citation needed]

It was signed into law on October 26, 2005, by President George W. Bush and became Public Law 109–92.[11] Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association thanked President Bush for signing the Act, for which it had lobbied, describing it as "... the most significant piece of pro-gun legislation in twenty years into law".[12][13][14]


Since the law's passage, there have been two cases taken to a jury trial for damages. In the first, a jury found in favor of a gun store in Alaska after a gun purchased by Jason Coday was used in a murder. The second resulted in a six million dollar verdict against Badger Guns after guns negligently sold there were used to shoot police officers.[15]

In 2016, a Missouri gun store settled for $2.2 million, for selling a gun to a schizophrenic woman who later killed her father, after the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that the sale was "negligent entrustment" and therefore was not protected by the PLCAA.[16][17] The store had previously been warned by the woman's parents that she was mentally unstable, and asked that she not be sold a gun.

In October 2016, a Connecticut Superior Court judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by the families of some victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting against the manufacturer (Remington), the wholesale distributor, and the retailer of the semi-automatic rifle used in the shooting. Judge Barbara Bellis ruled that the suit "falls squarely within the broad immunity" provided to gun manufacturers and dealers by the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.[18] However, on March 14, 2019, the Connecticut Supreme Court reversed the lower court's ruling, allowing plaintiffs to continue their suit against Remington.[19] The US Supreme Court declined to intervene in ongoing litigation that had not been decided.[20][21]

A lawsuit by victims of the Sutherland Springs shooting against the gun shop that sold the gun has been allowed to proceed because the shooter used a Colorado driver's license as identification to purchase the gun with a 30-round magazine (a 30-round magazine is standard on the gun). In sales of firearms to the resident of another state, the sale must comply with the laws of both the seller's and the purchaser's states. Colorado law prohibits the sale of magazines capable of holding more than 15 rounds.[22]

Dismissed suitsEdit

In 2010, the United States Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal in Ileto v. Glock, ending a lawsuit against Glock by the family of victims in the Los Angeles Jewish Community Center shooting.[23]

The Brady Center and families of victims of the 2012 Aurora, Colorado shooting sued Lucky Gunner, the online store where some of the ammunition was purchased. Federal judge Richard Paul Matsch dismissed the charges.[24][25] He ordered the plaintiffs to pay Lucky Gunner's legal fees under a separate Colorado law, HB 000–208.[26]

Renewed interestEdit

After the 2012 Aurora, Colorado, and Sandy Hook, Connecticut, shooting incidents, a renewed effort has been mounted to repeal the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act to make it possible for victims of gun violence to sue firearms manufacturers and dealers on a broader array of grounds.[1][27][28]

2016 electionEdit

During the 2016 United States presidential election, the act became a campaign issue, particularly within the Democratic Party primaries.

Hillary Clinton stated that she would repeal the law if elected,[29] saying: "They are the only business in America that is wholly protected from any kind of liability. They can sell a gun to someone they know they shouldn't, and they won't be sued. There will be no consequences."[30] Shortly after Clinton made this claim, fact checker Politifact rated the statement false, noting that other businesses and entities in America have similar or greater levels of protection against liability, and that firearms dealers and manufacturers are still susceptible to lawsuits and liability.[30]

Bernie Sanders, who as a congressman voted for the law in 2005, defended the law in October 2015, saying: "If somebody has a gun and it falls into the hands of a murderer and the murderer kills somebody with a gun, do you hold the gun manufacturer responsible? Not any more than you would hold a hammer company responsible if somebody beats somebody over the head with a hammer."[31][32] He changed his position somewhat in January 2016, saying that he would favor a partial repeal of the law.[33]

2020 electionEdit

In 2020, Bernie Sanders was again attacked for voting in favor of the law, especially by Joe Biden.[34]


While gun violence continues as a major sociopolitical issue[35] in the United States, the firearms industry has negated civil action lawsuits from gun violence victims due to protection from liability that federal law grants the business. According to the Center for American Progress, the PLCAA prevents "victims of gun violence from pursuing well-established legal claims against irresponsible gun manufacturers and sellers—without presenting an alternative means for the victims to be compensated."[36] Exceptions within the law that allow lawsuits to go forward fall under "negligent entrustment" and "predicate exception" actions, which target negligent retailers or manufacturers who violated local statutes applicable to the sale of firearms, but these cases are difficult to prove and rarely clear the PLCAA threshold in court.[37][38]

A 2007 report in the American Journal of Public Health states that the PLCAA is potentially dangerous to the public health because it removes both regulation and ligitation as incentives for firearm companies to make their products safer.[39]

This viewpoint is contended by certain right wing circles, including the libertarian think tank Cato Institute, which noted that the "PLCAA’s purpose was to curb efforts by gun‐​control advocates to circumvent state legislatures and attack Second Amendment rights through a never‐​ending series of lawsuits against manufacturers and retailers of firearms to hold them financially responsible for crimes committed using the weapons they make and sell." [40]

However, legal scholars have rebutted that advocates of the PLCAA failed to note any change in financial implication for the firearm industry. A law review by the Southern Methodist University of Dallas, Texas noted that: “PLCAA opponents... argue that the so-called "tidal wave of litigation" used to justify PLCAA's passage is exaggerated in terms of both scale and cost. They point to Congressional debates examining the SEC filings of gun giants like Smith & Wesson & Ruger. Rather than revealing the hundreds of millions of dollars in litigation costs purported to exist by PLCAA supporters, they expose multi-million dollar sales figures, but only de minimis legal expenses. Also de minimis, according to such opponents, are the number of suits faced by the gun industry, accounting for only fifty-seven out of the ten million torts suits filed between 1993 and 2003... many seek injunctive relief only and therefore could not possibly have the economically crippling effects which PLCAA backers fear.“ [41]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Munoz, S. Why Isn't The Media Discussing The Unprecedented Law Giving Gun Makers And Dealers Immunity? Media Matters, December 19, 2012.
  2. ^ "Chicago Sues Gun-makers And Retailers The Lawsuit Says Firearms Create A Deadly Public Nuisance. It Follows A Recent Filing By New Orleans". philly-archives. Archived from the original on 2015-12-22.
  3. ^ Fred Musante, After Tobacco, Handgun Lawsuits, The New York Times (January 31, 1999).
  4. ^ "Clinton Administration Reaches Historic Agreement with Smith & Wesson". Archived from the original on 2001-07-24. Retrieved 2015-10-16.
  5. ^ "HUD Archives: Agreement Between Smith && Wesson and the Departments of the Treasury and Housing and Urban Development, Local Governments and States". Department of Housing and Urban Development.
  6. ^ "A Smith & Wesson FAQ".
  7. ^ Walter K. Olson (2004). The Rule of Lawyers: How the New Litigation Elite Threatens America's Rule of Law. Macmillan. p. 126. ISBN 9780312331191.
  8. ^ "Gotham Gazette". Archived from the original on 2015-12-22.
  9. ^ "Roll Call Vote - 109th Congress, Vote 209", U.S. Senate. Retrieved March 7, 2016.
  10. ^ "Final Vote Results for Roll Call 534", Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives. Retrieved March 7, 2016.
  11. ^ Peters, Gerhard; Woolley, John T. "George W. Bush: "Statement on House of Representatives Passage of Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Legislation", October 20, 2005". The American Presidency Project. University of California - Santa Barbara.
  12. ^ NRA. President Bush signs Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ John Diedrich. "As long-awaited trial opens, officers' attorney faults gun store sale". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ Altimari, Dave; Kauffman, Matthew (October 14, 2016). "Sandy Hook Parents' Lawsuit Against Gun Maker Dismissed; Appeal Promised". Hartford Courant. Retrieved October 14, 2016.
  19. ^ Gershman, Jacob; McWhirter, Cameron (2019-03-14). "Manufacturer of AR-15 Can Be Sued Over Sandy Hook Massacre, Court Rules". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2019-03-22.
  20. ^ "Supreme Court lets Sandy Hook shooting lawsuit go forward". AP NEWS. 2019-11-12. Retrieved 2019-11-16.
  21. ^ "Docket for 19-168". Retrieved 2019-11-16.
  22. ^ "Texas judge says Sutherland Springs families can sue store that sold church shooter his gun, ammunition". Dallas News. 2019-01-31. Retrieved 2019-03-22.
  23. ^ "NRA-ILA - U.S. Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Appeal in Ileto v. Glock". NRA-ILA.
  24. ^ Stephen Gutowski. "Judge orders Brady Center to pay ammo dealer's legal fees after dismissing lawsuit". Fox News.
  25. ^ "Brady Center ordered to pay ammo dealer's legal fees after failed lawsuit". The Washington Times.
  26. ^ Lonnie and Sandy Phillips (September 25, 2015). "We Lost Our Daughter to a Mass Shooter and Now Owe $203,000 to His Ammo Dealer". Huffpost.
  27. ^ Bissell, H.J. Rolling Back Legal Immunity for the Gun Industry. Daily Kos, Jan 14, 2013.
  28. ^ Miller, Matt (June 15, 2015). "Jury says Rayco Sales wasn't liable for Simone Kim's murder". KTOO.
  29. ^ Alba, Monica (October 4, 2015). "Hillary Clinton Unveils Plan for Major New Gun Restrictions". NBC News. Retrieved March 10, 2016.
  30. ^ a b Carroll, Lauren (October 16, 2015). "Clinton: Gun industry Is 'Wholly Protected' from All Lawsuits", PolitiFact. Retrieved March 10, 2016.
  31. ^ Stern, Mark Joseph (October 13, 2015). "Bernie Sanders' Defense of His Pro-Gun, Pro-NRA Votes Was Absolutely Terrible". Slate. Retrieved March 10, 2016.
  32. ^ Lidgett, Adam (October 14, 2015). "Protection Of Lawful Commerce In Arms Act: The Controversial Gun Law Bernie Sanders Voted For Has Kept Families From Winning Lawsuits". International Business Times. Retrieved March 10, 2016.
  33. ^ Zorn, Eric (January 20, 2016). "Bernie Sanders Misfires on Gun Law Repeal", Chicago Tribune. Retrieved March 10, 2016.
  34. ^ Price, Michelle; Peoples, Steve. "Biden In Vegas Takes On Sanders' Gun Votes In Fiery Speech". Patch. Retrieved 20 February 2020.
  35. ^ "Yale study finds that gun violence is a 'contagious' social epidemic". Yale University. January 4, 2017. Retrieved April 30, 2018.
  36. ^ "Immunizing the Gun Industry. The Harmful Effect of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act" (PDF). Center for American Progress. January 15, 2016. Retrieved November 17, 2016.
  37. ^ Mascia, Jennifer (April 7, 2016). "Lawsuits Against Gun Sellers Almost Never Make it to Trial. This One Will". The Trace. Retrieved November 17, 2016.
  38. ^ Chu, Vivian S. (December 20, 2012). "The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act: An Overview of Limiting Tort Liability of Gun Manufacturers" (PDF). Federation of American Scientists. Retrieved November 17, 2016.
  39. ^ Vernick, Jon; Rutkow, Lainie; Salmon, Daniel (2007-11-01). "Availability of Litigation as a Public Health Tool for Firearm Injury Prevention: Comparison of Guns, Vaccines, and Motor Vehicles". American Journal of Public Health. 97 (11). doi:10.2105/AJPH.2006.092544. Retrieved 2020-06-12. The PLCAA not only prevents most people from receiving compensation for their firearm-related injuries, it erodes litigation’s ability to serve its public health role of providing manufacturers with a financial incentive to make their products safer. ... The absence of both litigation and product safety rules for firearms is a potentially dangerous combination for the public’s health.
  40. ^ Burrus, Trevor (September 11, 2019). "Protecting Gun Manufacturers from Frivolous Lawsuits". Retrieved March 2, 2020.
  41. ^ "Shooting Blanks: The Ineffectiveness of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act". SMU Law. 2006. Retrieved June 12, 2020.

External linksEdit