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Note - In Guns We Entrust: Targeting Negligent Firearms Distribution


On October 26, 2005, Congress passed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), an immunity statute that broadly shields gun manufacturers, distributors, and dealers from civil lawsuits arising out of gun violence injuries. PLCAA was passed with overwhelming support in Congress after decades of litigation against the gun industry. After tracking that history of litigation, this Note criticizes Congress’s reasons for passing PLCAA and argues for a broader interpretation of the negligent entrustment exception. In particular, courts should construe the negligent entrustment exception broadly to allow investigation of claims against gun dealers who allegedly store and transfer guns in ways that enable criminals to obtain access to them. In the same vein, PLCAA should not provide wholesale immunity to manufacturers who continually purvey weapons to these corrupt gun dealers solely because they do not directly transfer guns to consumers. The implications of this reading of negligent entrustment would concededly impact the gun industry in momentous ways. However, acceptance of this view would not open a Pandora’s box of litigation, unconstitutionally violate Second Amendment rights, or disturb the gun industry’s qualified immunity. Rather, imposing a duty on the gun industry to monitor the distribution of firearms merely reflects the risk of distributing lethal instrumentalities to unscrupulous commercial actors and dangerous individuals.