The case cited was a perfect example of the law working as claimed by its proponents.
The retailers knowing allowed a very obvious straw purchase, which is a violation of federal criminal, not tort, law.
The PLCAA does not protect gun dealers, gun distributors or gun manufacturers to escape liability for their own actions. It also does not prevent manufacturers from being held accountable for defects in design, workmanship or materials in the guns they make.
What the PLCAA does do is shield the industry from malicious, and costly, lawsuits brought by those seeking to hold the dealers, distributors, and manufacturers responsible for criminal acts of third parties with whom the businesses had no relation and over whom the businesses exercise no control.
When James Fields deliberately drove a Dodge Challenger into a group of demonstrators in Charlottesville, Virginia, killing one person and injuring 19 others, did anyone try to sue Fiat Chrysler Automobiles? When Sayfullo Saipov drove a Ford truck into bikers and pedestrians in New York City’s Hudson River Park, killing eight people and wounding 11 more, where were the lawsuits trying to hold Ford Motor Company liable?
Did the City of Boston sue whatever company made the pressure cookers used by the Tsarnaev brothers in the Boston Marathon Bombing? How about whoever made the backpacks they used to conceal the devices?
The PLCAA was triggered by a concerted effort of cities and federal officials to hold them accountable for gun violence. The goal was to file so many meritless lawsuits that the companies would be bankrupted by the costs of the litigation. In 2000, Andrew Cuomo, then Bill Clinton’s HUD secretary, said the industry would suffer “death by a thousand cuts.”
These lawsuits did not try to hold the gun manufacturers liable for things they did, they wanted to hold them liable for things that other people did.
It began with the mayors of Bridgeport, Connecticut and Chicago, Illinois, who had been unable to deal with homicide rates that were high even by the standards of the time. In the 10-year period from 1991 to 2000, Bridgeport’s homicide rate averaged 3.8 times the U.S. rate.
Rather than confronting their own failures, the mayors decided to blame the gun companies, a pastime that has become very popular with politicians.
It was also seen as a way as legislating in the courts rather than going through the messy process of actually getting laws passed. In fact, Bridgeport Mayor Joseph Ganim said as much, claiming that the gun companies had blocked gun laws by lobbying. (It’s actually a bit ironic: in only a few years, Ganim himself would be barred from owning a firearm after being convicted of felony corruption charges.)
At the time Cuomo made his comments, about 28 states had filed lawsuits against the gun makers, not for anything the gun companies had done wrong, but for what criminals did with guns.
The whole game ran into trouble in 2001. George W. Bush was elected President. The deal struck between Smith & Wesson and the Clinton Justice Department was repudiated, though the fallout from the agreement still plagues S&W today.
The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act of 2005 passed the House with the votes of 223 Republicans, 59 Democrats and one Independent. 52 Republicans, 12 Democrats and one Independent. (future President Barack Obama and his future Vice President Joe Biden both voted against it).
Of course, Brady is probably still smarting from the smackdown it got when it joined with families of some of victims of the 2012 shooting at the Century Theater in Aurora, Colorado in suing an online company from which the shooter had purchased some ammunition. Not only did they lose the case, the judge ordered them to pay the retailer’s legal fees.
I guess that’s why they’re so keen to see the law repealed: they want their money back.