The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act was enacted on October 26, 2005 in response to numerous lawsuits filed by municipalities and others that sought to blame the firearms industry for the criminal use of firearms and change the manner in which firearms are sold and marketed through litigation instead of the legislature. In order to curb these abusive and politically motivated law suits, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act defines a “qualified civil liability action” as a:
civil action or proceeding or an administrative proceeding brought by any person against a [Federally licensed] manufacturer or seller of a [firearm that has been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce], or a trade association, for damages, punitive damages, injunctive or declaratory relief, abatement, restitution, fines, or penalties or other relief resulting from the criminal or unlawful misuse of a qualified product by the person or a third party. . . .
and states that a “qualified civil liability action may not be brought in any Federal or State Court” and that any “qualified civil liability action that is pending on the date of enactment of this Act shall be immediately dismissed by the court in which the action was brought or is currently proceeding.”
There are six categories of actions and proceedings that remain unaffected by the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act: (1) an action against a manufacturer or seller who has been convicted of knowingly transferring a firearm with the knowledge that it will be used in a crime of violence or a drug trafficking crime, brought by a plaintiff who was directly harmed by the conduct of the manufacturer or seller; (2) an action brought against a seller for negligent entrustment or negligence per se; (3) an action in which a manufacturer or seller knowingly violated a Federal or State statute applicable to the sale or marketing of firearms, where the violation was a proximate cause of the harm for which relief is sought; (4) an action for breach of contract or breach of warranty; (5) an action based on an alleged design or manufacturing defect; and (6) an action or proceeding commenced by the Attorney General to enforce the federal firearms laws.
The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act has survived numerous challenges to its constitutionality in the more than four years since it has been in effect and has served as the basis for the dismissal of several politically motivated lawsuits, including those brought against numerous manufacturers and distributors of firearms by the City of New York and the District of Columbia, as well as a private lawsuit against the manufacturer and distributor of the firearm used by Buford Furrow to shot Joseph Ileto.