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Le Figaro, France

The Secret Law Protecting the Arms Lobby


By Jean-Sébastien Stehli

Citizens can lash out at McDonalds if they happen to get burned by hot coffee or at a dry cleaner because some clothes were lost, but cannot take the weapons industry to task for dangerous or defective products.

Translated By Lindsey Cambridge

27 December 2012

Edited by Rachel Smith


France - Le Figaro - Original Article (French)

The United States is still in shock over the Sandy Hook massacre, in which 20 children were killed by gunfire, and many are reassessing how firearms should be regulated. The National Rifle Association proposes (seriously) putting armed men in schools around the country as a solution. Yet a simple solution exists to the free circulation of weapons – at least in principle.

Congress, terrified by arms lobbyists, voted for a completely excessive law that few people know about. It protects arms manufacturers and distributors against all recourse in court, as, for example, we have protected the tobacco industry. The law is called The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. It was voted on in 2005. Citizens can lash out at McDonalds if they happen to get burned by hot coffee or at a dry cleaner because some clothes were lost, but cannot take the weapons industry to task for dangerous or defective products.* Someone injured by a drunk driver can sue the business that sold the alcohol. A product can kill 26 people in a school or 30,000 people a year and its manufacturer can sleep soundly.

When an industry knows that it can be attacked for selling a defective or dangerous product and that lawsuits can cost that industry millions of dollars, it takes care to reform itself. But Congress protected the industry from the recourse that all democracies offer their citizens. Until 2005, it was possible to go after arms manufacturers. Smith & Wesson, in order to avoid lawsuits that were threatening to bankrupt it, had agreed to engrave a second, hidden, serial number which would make it easier to find the owner of the firearm.

The PLCAA contains some exceptions, as, for example, when the arms distributor knows that it is violating a federal or state law. The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence sued a website for having sold a weapon, which was later used to kill a woman, to a buyer who didn’t live in the state in which he bought it, which is strictly forbidden.


Editor's Note: The PLCAA, 15 U.S.C. §§ 7901-7903, was intended to “prohibit causes of action against manufacturers...for the harm solely caused by the criminal or unlawful misuse of firearm products or ammunition products by others when the product functioned as designed and intended.” It does not protect manufacturers who produce faulty devices.



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