Michigan AG Nessel supports the New York Gun Industry Liability Act

To hold the firearms industry responsible for harm to the public caused by the irresponsible sale and marketing of firearms, New York became the first state in the nation to enact legislation in July 2021. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced on Wednesday that she supports the bill.

Nessel joined a group of 18 attorney generals led by Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul who supported the law. The group argued in an amicus letter that New York had the power to protect residents and public safety after several members of the firearms industry sued the state.

“It’s time gun manufacturers and dealers were held accountable for acting irresponsibly, for example by failing to prevent straw gun purchases or employing marketing strategies that target vulnerable youth,” Nessel said in a press release on Wednesday. “New York law is sound guns legislation that imposes appropriate regulations to respond to gun industry wrongdoing.”

Under the law, any public official or individual may bring a lawsuit against a member of the gun industry if they “knowingly or recklessly endanger the safety or health of the public in New York State through the unlawful or improper sale, manufacture, import, or marketing of firearms.” ‘” Nessel’s office said in the press release.

Gun industry members can also be held liable if they “fail to use proper controls and procedures” to prevent firearms from being used or sold unlawfully in New York State.

The firearms industry members who sued New York argued that the law was anticipated by federal statutes and was unconstitutional. The US District Court for the Northern District of New York dismissed the lawsuit.

In the amicus brief, the group of 18 Attorneys General demanded that the Court of Appeal uphold the lower court’s decision. The ruling noted that the law is not preceded by the Lawful Trade in Firearms Protection Act — a federal law that limits civil remedies against members of the gun industry for damages caused solely by the misconduct of people using firearms.

The lower court’s ruling also found that the law violated neither the dormant commerce clause nor the due process clause of the US Constitution, von Nessel’s office said in the press release.

Arguing that the New York Statute is legitimate and beneficial to the public, Nessel and the group explained in the brief that there is empirical evidence that there is a direct link between the harmful effects of gun violence and the irresponsible actions of members of the gun industry are. For example, when retailers fail to implement adequate controls to discourage the purchase of straw, or when manufacturers develop novel marketing programs to target vulnerable youth.

Alongside Nessel and Raoul are the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin.

Since the New York bill was signed into law in 2021, three states (Delaware, New Jersey, and California) have signed similar bills.