NEW YORK (CN) – The 2nd Circuit dismissed New York City’s longstanding lawsuit against the gun industry, citing a federal law protecting gun suppliers against litigation that was passed five years after the city filed its complaint.
In 2000 the city tried to rein in the illegal gun market by suing gun suppliers and dealers, claiming they knowingly sold weapons to legitimate buyers who peddled them on the illegal market.
U.S. District Judge Jack Weinstein allowed the city to proceed on its claim, despite outcry from several major gun companies, including Beretta USA, Browning Arms, Glock, and Smith & Wesson.
The gun suppliers cited the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, passed two months before Weinstein ruled against them.
The PLCAA bans all lawsuits against gun makers or dealers, except in cases where a plaintiff can prove that the supplier “knowingly violated a state or federal statute applicable to the sale or marketing of (firearms).”
The city argued that its complaint – which was based on a New York nuisance law – fell under this exemption. Suppliers failed to monitor retailers and dealers to ensure that their guns do not feed the illegal market, the city claimed.
But a split three-judge panel rejected the city’s request for an injunction. The PLCAA is not only constitutional, the court ruled, but it also bars the city’s claims.
Judge Katzmann dissented, disagreeing with the majority’s holding that the state law was not an exception under federal law.
The majority’s ruling gave future courts no guidance on how to determine if an existing statute applies, Katzmann said.
“Beyond this lack of clarity, in unnecessarily finding ambiguity in the statute, the construction of the statute the majority selects leads to the sort of practical problems and absurd results we usually try to avoid.”