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Maryland to expand lawsuits against members of the firearm industry

Posted at 2:10 PM, May 28, 2024

BALTIMORE, MD — Maryland recently joined a select few states allowing its attorney general to prosecute bad actors in the firearm industry.

Governor Wes Moore signed the Gun Industry Accountability into law in early May.

“Our long-term goal is accountability, we know that accountability in our courts works," said Senator Jeff Waldstreicher, the lead sponsor of the legislation.

Several states with more restrictive policies around guns have been instituting laws like this in the past few years.

It’s an attempt to work around the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, known as PLCCA.

“With this law in place it has significantly stifled the ability of states to sue the firearms industry for dangerous business practices essentially," said Tim Carey, Law and Policy Adviser at Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solution.

In Maryland's version of the law the attorney general and states attorneys can bring suits against the gun industry members for contributing to a public nuisance.

“They’re essentially saying if the firearm industry or firearm industry members knowingly contribute to harms to the public then they could be sued in these certain ways," said Carey.

Opponents of the law say it’s too broad and doesn’t define exact laws that firearm industry members need to follow to avoid lawsuits, just that they can’t act unreasonably.

"So it’s not like this is an unregulated industry but no one has any idea what unreasonable means because it’s not a defined term," said Mark Pennak, President of Maryland Shall Issue

“You can be perfectly compliant with the law and still be found liable for all these damages which you have no idea is unreasonable," added Pennak.

There’s fear this could bankrupt mom-and-pop gun sellers and even push some manufacturers out of the business.

“So this will pose enormous litigation costs on dealers who are small businessmen and women and manufacturers," said Pennak.

Since the laws are new, they’ve been facing challenges.

It’s agreed by both people for and against Maryland's law that it will also be challenged in the courts.

Where they differ is on whether it will pass.

“Either way it’s going to get challenged and when it does it will fail," said Pennak.

“There’s no question that this legislation will litigate but there’s no question in my mind that it will prevail," said Senator Waldstreicher.

The law goes into effect June 1.