Are Gun Companies Liable for Injuries?
Guns may be the most dangerous consumer products on the market. Even when used properly, there is almost a guarantee that somebody will suffer harm. Usually, when a company markets a dangerous product, it's strictly liable for injuries. But this isn't always the case with gun manufacturers, gunmakers, and distributors.
Here, we'll explain whether gun companies are responsible for injuries resulting from the use of their products. We will also explain what to do if someone injures you with their gun.
When Are Firearms Manufacturers at Fault?
Firearms manufacturers may be liable for damages if they improperly manufacture a gun. For example, if Remington sells a weapon without the proper safety mechanism, the courts may hold them responsible for injuries resulting from this product defect.
In general, product liability cases focus on product defects. These can include a design defect or a manufacturing defect. The courts hold most manufacturers of dangerous products strictly liable for any injuries consumers suffer. But the rules differ regarding firearms and other guns.
Improper and Illegal Gun Sales
Federal law regulates gun ownership to some degree, including restricting the ownership of certain firearms. For instance, the National Firearms Act (NFA) restricts the selling or possessing of short-barreled shotguns, machine guns, and silencers.
To purchase one of these "NFA firearms or devices," owners must do the following:
- Submit to an extensive background check
- Purchase a tax stamp for the manufacture of the firearm or device
- Register the weapon with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) NFA registry
Some states, including New York and California, prohibit ownership of these firearms and devices.
Other rules restrict the purchase of certain guns. Under the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, you can't have a firearm for personal or business use if you:
- Were convicted of a crime punishable by prison for more than one year
- Are a fugitive from justice
- Are addicted to, or illegally use, any controlled substance
- Are mentally defective or reside in a mental institution
- Are an illegal alien living in the United States unlawfully
- Received a dishonorable discharge from the U.S. Armed Forces
- Renounced your U.S. citizenship
- Are subject to a court restraining order that involves your "intimate partner," your partner's child, or children
- Were convicted of a misdemeanor for domestic violence in any court
In addition to federal laws on gun ownership, there are state laws. When gun distributors and retailers sell guns to consumers, these entities must ensure the buyer meets these requirements. If someone in the gun industry sells a firearm without abiding by these laws, you can sue them for damages.
The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act
A federal law in the U.S., the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), governs gun sales by those in the firearms industry. Congress passed this law to provide civil exemptions to gun manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and dealers.
According to the PLCAA, gunmakers and dealers are not liable for injuries victims suffer during the commission of a crime. But this law does not protect American gun makers from:
- Manufacturing defects
- Design defects
- Other product liability claims
For example, if a gun manufacturer sells a defective product, they can be liable for injuries resulting from the defect. Gun manufacturers can also be liable for the following:
- Breach of contract
- Breach of warranty
- Faulty disclaimers
- Other consumer-related claims
They can also be responsible for injuries resulting from other foreseeable risks.
The legal issues surrounding gun injuries are complex. You must prove the manufacturer's liability if you or a loved one suffers an injury. Alternatively, you can pursue a claim against the gun dealers who sold the gun.
Negligent Entrustment of a Firearm
If you suffer a gun injury, your product liability attorney may file a claim for negligent entrustment of a firearm. If a gun dealer sells a gun to someone knowing that they plan to use it for criminal purposes, they may be liable for injuries that ensue.
If someone buys a firearm from a gun store but the dealer has no knowledge that they plan to use it for a crime, the store owner won't be liable. But if they should've known the buyer had plans to use the gun for nefarious purposes, you can sue for damages.
The strong protection from civil liability makes it difficult to file product liability lawsuits against members of the gun industry.
Follow Gun Safety Tips To Avoid Injury
If you buy a gun, you must follow gun safety tips. This will reduce the chances of you injuring yourself or someone else. Gun safety tips include the following:
- Follow local, state, and federal gun laws
- Use extreme care when handling guns
- Mistakes happen, and guns have the potential to injure or kill
- Get safety training and practical experience
- Never let children play with guns
- Keep your firearm safely secured and unloaded when not in use
- Never use guns while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
These tips will lower the odds of someone suffering a gun-related injury. If you suffer an injury and believe it's due to an issue with the gun manufacturer, contact a product liability attorney. They can review your case and explain your legal options.
Contact an Experienced Product Liability Law Attorney for Help
If someone hurts you with their gun, you have rights. The first thing to do is seek immediate medical attention. Then, talk to an experienced attorney. If the gun was defective, you may have a claim for damages.
To find a personal injury lawyer near you, visit Findlaw.com's attorney directory.
You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.
Contact a qualified product liability attorney to make sure your rights are protected.