Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, H.R. 1036 and S. 659, 108th Congress: Legal Analysis Page: 2 of 6
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The bill's findings state that it is "an abuse of the legal system" to hold defendants
"liable for harm caused by those who criminally or unlawfully misuse firearm products
or ammunition products that function as designed and intended." A cosponsor of the bill
said, "We're trying to stop making public policy through the courts with these nuisance
suits."3 Opponents of H.R. 1036 "have denounced the proposed legislation as an unfair
favor to an industry and a federal usurpation of states' rights," and have said that it
"would bring progress toward safer guns to a screaming halt and make it more difficult
for gun violence victims to recover damages. ... It would prevent cities from collecting
damages against gun manufacturers who maintain a distribution system which they know
ensures the continual supply of guns to the illegal market."4
H.R. 1036 would prohibit a "qualified civil liability action" from being brought in
any federal or state court, and would require the dismissal of any such action that is
pending on the date of enactment of the bill. The bill defines a "qualified civil liability
action" as, with five exceptions, "a civil action brought by any person against a
manufacturer or seller of a qualified product, or a trade association, for damages or
injunctive relief resulting from the criminal or unlawful misuse of a qualified product by
the person or a third party."5 It defines a "qualified product" as a firearm (as defined in
18 U.S.C. 921(a)(3)(A) or (B)), an antique firearm (as defined in 18 U.S.C.
921(a)(16)), ammunition (as defined in 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(17)), or a component part
of a firearm or ammunition.
H.R. 1036 defines "trade association," used in the definition of "qualified civil
liability action" quoted above, as "any association or business organization (whether or
not incorporated under Federal or State law) that is not operated for profit, and 2 or more
members of which are manufacturers or sellers of a qualified product."
H.R. 1036 defines "manufacturer" to limit it to manufacturers who are licensed under
chapter 44 of title 18, U.S. Code. It defines "seller" to include an "importer" (as defined
in 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(9)), a "dealer" (as defined in 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(11)), and a "person
engaged in the business of selling ammunition" (as defined in 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(17)).
An "importer" and a "dealer" would have to be licensed under chapter 44 of title 18, U.S.
Code, to be a "seller" under the bill.
The first of the five types of lawsuits that would not be a "qualified civil liability
action," and that therefore would not be barred by the bill, would be: "(i) an action
brought against a transferor convicted under section 924(h) of title 18, United States
Code, or a comparable or identical State felony law, by a party directly harmed by the
conduct of which the transferee is so convicted." Section 924(h) makes it a crime to
"knowingly transfer[ ] a firearm, knowing that such firearm will be used to commit a
crime of violence ... or a drug trafficking crime." The "transferor" who may be sued is
3 John Tierney, "A New Push to Grant Gun Industry Immunity From Suits," New York Times,
Apr. 4, 2003, p. A10.
4 Id. For background information, see CRS Report RS20126, Gun Industry Liability: Lawsuits
and Legislation (updated Mar. 30, 1999).
s The words "or injunctive relief' are not in S. 659.
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Cohen, Henry. Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, H.R. 1036 and S. 659, 108th Congress: Legal Analysis, report, March 1, 2004; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc822520/m1/2/: accessed August 16, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.