(CN) – The 9th Circuit on Monday upheld a federal law shielding gunmakers and dealers from lawsuits filed by victims of gun crimes. The court dismissed a challenge brought by victims of a 1999 shooting at a Jewish community center summer camp in Granada Hills, Calif.
Buford O. Furrow Jr. shot and injured three children, a teenager and an adult at the summer camp on Aug. 10, 1999. Later that day, he shot and killed a U.S. postal worker. Furrow was carrying about seven guns, which he possessed illegally.
The victims of the shooting and the postal worker’s wife sued Glock, RSR Wholesale Guns Seattle and other members of the gun industry in 2001, claiming they intentionally flooded the market with guns, increasing the risk that the weapons would fall into the wrong hands.
In 2005, Congress passed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which shields gunmakers and sellers from liability for injuries stemming from the criminal use of their products.
The district court determined that the federal law pre-empted the plaintiffs’ state-law claims.
The San Francisco-based federal appeals court agreed that federal law, and not state law, governed the case.
Although the plaintiffs filed suit before Congress enacted the law, legislators clearly intended for the PLCAA to apply retroactively, the court concluded. The three-judge panel voted 2-1 to dismiss the claims against Glock and RSR, because both are protected by federal law: Glock as a federally licensed manufacturer, and RSR as a federally licensed dealer.
“The purpose of the PLCAA leads us to conclude that Congress intended to pre-empt general tort law claims such as Plaintiffs’, even though California has codified those claims in its civil code,” Judge Graber wrote. The court rejected the plaintiffs’ claims that the federal law violates the separation of powers doctrine and their constitutional rights.
However, the 9th Circuit allowed the case to proceed against China North, an unlicensed Chinese gun manufacturer.
Judge Berzon dissented in part, saying the federal law should not strip the plaintiffs of their right to sue under state law.
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