Earlier this month a New York appeals court overturned the dismissal of a lawsuit against Beemiller, Inc, the maker of the Hi-Point 9mm, which is being sued because of criminal misuse of their product. The lower court, correctly, cited the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. Law.com has a very good article with some background. John Richardson has more, including an NRA News interview with Steven Halbrook. The actual opinion cites the exceptions to the PLCAA as a reason for allowing the case to go forward, particularly the text which allows, “an action in which a manufacturer or seller of a qualified productÂ knowingly violated a State or Federal statute applicable to the sale or marketing of the product, and the violationÂ was a proximate cause of the harm for which relief is sought.”
The complaint is against the dealer, the distributor, and the manufacturer. The case is actually quite interesting. The dealer in this was licensed from his home, and did business at gun shows. There’s nothing unlawful about this arrangement, but it’s alleged that the dealer knowingly facilitated straw purchases in violation of federal law, which, if true, would indeed put the suit outside of the PLCAA. Where it gets interesting is that the dealer in question was a high level officer, and is now the President of the distributor that’s being sued as well. Said distributor is the sole marketer and distributor of Hi-Point firearms. The court essentially ruled that the plaintiffs are entitled to discovery, given these facts.
The Brady Center is touting this as a major landmark victory. They have been attempting to poke holes in the PLCAA virtually from the moment it passed, since it has effectively ruined their strategy to sue firearms manufacturers, distributors, and dealers out of existence. I haven’t been able to find all the pleadings in this case to know for sure, but the circumstances here look fairly unique and narrow, with someone who is a dealer and also part owner of the sole distributor of a firearms manufacturer. Nonetheless, the Bradys would love to carve a PLCAA exception wide enough such that any firearm sold by a dealer to a straw buyer can result in a potential lawsuit at least reaching the discovery phase. All it takes is for this to happen in a single jurisdiction, and it’ll be open season on firearms dealers.