PLCAA Being Read Narrowly by New Jersey Court

A Morris County Superior Court judge is allowing a suit to go forward against Sarco, a New Jersey based distributor of firearms.  The facts seem to be that an employee stole a firearm from a shipment of guns, which was later used to shoot and severely wound a police officer.  Sarco has offered a half million dollar settlement to the officer wounded.

I think, in terms of the PLCAA, that it probably doesn’t apply to this case, which is a negligence suit.  But the circumstances surrounding this suit make me skeptical of the negligence claim.  Sarco claims a shipment arriving from a California dealer that was shutting down had firearms missing from it, one of which their employee apparently stole.  Sarco claims that it is the sender’s responsibility to file the FFL Theft/Loss form.  That is correct, as we can see from the Federal Register:

If a firearm is lost or stolen in transit, the notation in the acquisition and disposition book of the transferor/sender that the firearm was disposed of to a particular transferee/buyer is inaccurate. Therefore, a transferor/sender must verify that the transferee/buyer received the shipped firearm in order to fulfill his/her statutory responsibility to maintain accurate records. 18 U.S.C. 922(m), 923(g)(1)(A), and 923(g)(2).

I think this makes it difficult to say that Sarco was the responsible party here from a legal point of view, since as best they knew the shipment arrived with the guns already missing, which puts the legal onus on the sending FFL for reporting.  In that instance, the negligence suit will have to be decided on whether or not Sarco’s security procedures were sufficient to prevent unauthorized employees from tampering with shipments.  That should be a harder case to make than if they had actually violated ATF regulations, but I suspect they are offering settlement because they realize an injured police officer before a jury, against a gun distributor, in a New Jersey court, is not likely to turn out well for them.

Why Sarco chooses to locate in a state that is decidedly hostile to their line of business is a mystery to me.  I can think of several nearby states that would be a better place to do business.

8 thoughts on “PLCAA Being Read Narrowly by New Jersey Court”

  1. “I think this makes it difficult to say that Sarco was the responsible party here from a legal point of view …”

    I realize this is moot in this day and age, but I wish the held responsible parties would be the a-hole who stole the firearm, and the a-hole who committed a crime with it.

  2. Sarco has the deep pockets, and driving them out of business is a political “win” – so go after them along with the perp.

    Would being out of state have prevented the suit? I wouldn’t expect so (other than possibly changing the initial venue – if Sarco has the pockets this can go federal because their defense is based on a federal law).

  3. The suit would have to have been in federal court, and the jury could be drawn from the third circuit, and not just Morris County. I think that changes the dynamic a bit.

  4. I would have settled too just based upon the fact that truth and justice died there a long time ago…….

  5. Carl is right of course. Sarco didn’t steal the weapon and didn’t shoot the cop.

    Morris county is a realitvely conservative area of NJ. Not as conservative Warren and Sussex, but not bad.

    I hope Sarco beats the rap – it’s a great place to shop for old guns and parts.

  6. While Sarco still remains on my personal shit list for not sending me all of the Mauser 98k parts (I am still waiting for an oiler on backorder.) that I paid for back in early December 2008, I still would hate to see them get sued out of business over something such as this.

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