Wednesday, May 15, 2019

The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act and Williams v. Beemiller

The New York Supreme Court recently ruled that a man shot by a gang member did not have standing to sue the retailer that legally sold the gun.  The court has been winding its tortuous way through the process for over a decade. Williams was shot in 2005.

Williams v. Beemiller is about injuries sustained from an assault committed by a New York High School gang on an innocent bystander, who was mistaken for a member of an opposition gang. Daniel Williams was shot and injured. High school gang members do not have lots of assets.

The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence seems to have agreed to help Williams sue the gun seller, the wholesaler, and the manufacturer of the pistol used.

The lower court dismissed the lawsuit as being outlawed by the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, (PLCAA).  The PLCAA was passed to prevent gun manufacturers or dealers from being sued when people misused the firearms they legally made or sold. The purpose was to prevent lawsuits of manufacturers and dealers for the criminal deeds of others.

The appeals court made the claim the case might belong to  an exception to the PLCAA, where a manufacturer or wholesaler knowingly illegally sells guns. In 2012, Law& Liberty summed up the case. From in 2012:
The PLCAA does not insulate manufacturers from suits alleging violations of state or local laws. The complaint alleges an illegal straw sale by Brown and claims that the manufacturer was an accomplice in this sale. The crux of the claim is the allegation of an unusually close relationship between manufacturer, wholesaler and retailer. If proved, this is a very different fact pattern from the set of concerns that undergird the PLCAA. So Williams is not a landmark case. It just presents a fact pattern at the boundaries of the protections the statute was designed to create.
As the case was appealed yet again, it became clear that the gun seller, Brown, had acted completely within the law. He had even contacted the BATFE to make sure the transactions were legal. From
Attorneys for Williams had argued that Brown should have known that Bostic intended to sell the guns illegally in another state based on conversations in which he mentioned opening gun stores in Ohio and Buffalo.

Second Amendment rights advocate Steve Felano with the organization 2AWNY said the ruling "is a situation where logic prevailed over emotion."

The shooting "really has nothing to do with the underlying statutes that the case brought," Felano said. The firearms dealer appears to have made the sale lawfully and there was no way he could have known that the gun would have ended up in the hands of a gang member, he said.

The case mirrors other cases that are trying to hold gun sellers and manufacturers liable for shootings, he said.
The case went to the Supreme Court of New York. The court found that Brown had acted legally.  Because of procedural issues, the manufacturer and distributor still have to fight the case in New York courts.  From Williams v. Beemiller opinion:
Plaintiffs appropriately condemn the scourge of illegal gun trafficking affecting our state and others, which takes an enormous toll on injured parties and their communities. However, notwithstanding the sympathetic facts in this case, we must neutrally apply the well-established precedent of this Court and the United States Supreme Court, which precludes this action from proceeding against Brown in New York, while leaving claims against the manufacturer and distributor pending. Accordingly, the order of the Appellate Division should be affirmed, with costs
Williams was represented by the chief counsel for the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. From
Williams was represented by Jonathan Lowy, the chief counsel for the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. The group's spokesman, Max Samis, said it is disappointed by the ruling and is considering next steps.
"In the meantime, an active suit still exists against the firearm distributor and manufacturer, and we look forward to pursuing the case against the remaining defendants," he said.

Williams' lawsuit also names Beemiller Inc., an Ohio firearms manufacturer, and MKS Supply Inc., a wholesale firearms distributor in Ohio. Thursday's decision doesn't dismiss his lawsuit against the companies.

The major philosophical difference in viewing the law is that of linking causation with responsibility.

Those who want an unarmed population see firearms as causing harm by the existence of firearms.  They transfer volition from people to the inanimate objects. They use Orwellian language to say people are harmed by firearms, instead of with firearms.

This is fundamentally different from lawsuits that claim a defect in a product caused harm.

Where a defective product causes harm, the product did not work as it was designed (and reasonably expected) to.

When a criminal points a gun at a person and pulls the trigger, if the gun fires, the gun is acting as it was designed to. The gun manufacturer has no control over the volition of the person who has possession of the gun at any particular time.

To a person who has chosen to be unarmed, the choice is simple. Get rid of as many guns as possible, in as many ways as possible. To them, this makes sense, because they do not own guns or expect to own guns. They see no cost to them, personally.

The cost to the greater society is enormous, because of the precedent set. A person may be sued, a company bankrupted, an industry destroyed - for producing legal products that functioned as they were designed to function.

Motor car companies could be sued for producing cars used by bank robbers, or mass killers.

Banks could be sued for lending money to companies that produced fertilizer that was used to make bombs.  It is insanity.  It would mean that anyone who had any assets could eventually be sued for nearly anything that was perceived as a wrong in society...

It is just another aspect of Progressivism, socialism, Marxism, collectivism, or any other ism that has no respect for property rights, individual rights, or the rule of law.

Traditional law and perspective is this:

Guns do not have volition.

People are harmed by other people, not by inanimate objects.

The novel legal theory attempted by the Brady Center is this:

Guns exist.

People are harmed because guns exist.

Therefore, the people who made the guns must pay.

Harming some people because a second set of people harmed a third set of people is wrong, and bad law. It is the heart of Progressivism, Socialism, the attempt to re-distribute wealth, envy, covetousness, and the attempt to make gun manufacturers responsible for the criminal actions of others.

It is based on emotion, on the desire that no one should every be hurt or suffer loss.

It may make sense to have a social safety net that prevents people from suffering catastrophic harm through no fault of their own. It makes no sense to harm others, who were not responsible for the harm caused by a third party.

Democrat candidates Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Bernie Sanders have all pledged to work to repeal the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, (PLCAA).  I have no intent to slight other Democrat candidates who may have made the same pledge.

©2019 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If you make a flint lock weapon, make your own black powder, Cast your own bullets in the mold you made, Picked up a piece of flint rock in your yard and then that gun is stolen after you load it. It cant be traced to any one and it is used to shoot some one. Who gets sued? They arrest the shooter , try him and send him to jail He never admits to stealing the gun. He stole the gun to do the killing and the person would be just as dead as if he used a baseball bat. A .69 caliber Springfield musket shoots a 2.5 ounce hollow point soft lead slug. You know when you have been hit by how much of your body is missing. Good gun to use on gun grabbers. They might decide that modern guns are much more preferable. If the gun grabber take all of the modern guns, Home made guns will prevail.