On January 10, in a unanimous 3-judge decision the District Columbia Court of Appeals found that the federal “Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act” (PLCAA) blocked lawsuits under D.C.’s “Strict Liability Act.” This was a significant victory for both he Rule of Law and for Civil Rights.
Washington D.C.’s “Strict Liability Law” had tried to make manufacturers, importers, and dealers liable “without regard to fault or proof of defect” for illegal use of firearms. This is a principle that has been rejected by nearly all US courts that have ever looked at the issue. In this case (District of Columbia v. Beretta, U.S.A.), the D.C. government tried to sue to recover health care and emergency services costs supposedly created by criminal gun use in the District.
District Columbia Court of Appeals described the District Government’s arguments “imaginative,” and court found that D.C.’s lawsuit didn’t fall within any of the PLCAA’s exceptions for legitimate suits, and that allowing the suit would “frustrate Congress’s clear intention” in passing the PLCAA. The court also found that the PLCAA is constitutional, both in terms of separation of powers and due process.
Previously, in 2002, D.C. Superior Court Judge Cheryl M. Long threw out this same reckless lawsuit, rejecting the nuisance and negligence claims and concluding that a 1990 statute, the Assault Weapon Manufacturing Strict Liability Act, was unconstitutional.