What is the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA)?

Reforming the Gun Industry: If you can’t beat ’em, ask Congress for a favor

4 min readOct 25, 2019


Photo by Ryan on Unsplash

By Kelly Sampson, Counsel

Since Brady Legal works diligently to prevent gun violence from taking any more lives, we take birthdays very seriously. October 26 will see several notable birthdays: Secretary Hillary Clinton, actor Seth MacFarlane, and … dun dun dun … the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, aka “PLCAA.”

While Brady wishes Secretary Clinton, MacFarlane, and all who will blow out candles on the 26th many happy returns, we cannot say the same for PLCAA.

PLCAA is a federal law that gives gun manufacturers, distributors, and dealers (“the gun industry”) protections unlike any other industry.

To understand the ins and outs of PLCAA requires a brief introduction to law 101. A “tort” provides a right to compensation to those wrongfully harmed by someone else. Generally speaking, tort law holds private actors to the same negligence standard — a duty to use reasonable care to not foreseeably injure others.

Whether you negligently fail to shovel snow off your stoop, sell a sandwich with spoiled mayo, or market cigarettes to kids, you face the same basic standards.

That is what makes PLCAA so egregious. It treats the gun industry differently — better — than anyone else.

If courts construed PLCAA as its text — and its supporters said it should be — it would only bar lawsuits that seek to hold the gun industry liable for the mere act of responsibly selling firearms that criminals happen to use, but it would allow lawsuits against irresponsible sellers, whose negligent actions foreseeably arm criminals.

PLCAA’s author, chief sponsor and floor leader, then-Senator Larry Craig, couldn’t have been more clear:

“PLCAA does not protect firearms or ammunition manufacturers, sellers, or trade associations from any other lawsuits based on their own negligence or criminal conduct . . . As we have stressed repeatedly, this legislation will not bar the courthouse doors to victims who have been harmed by the negligence or misdeeds of anyone in the gun industry . . . If…




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