How a House Repeal of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act Would Harm Wildlife and Sportsmen

How a House Repeal of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act Would Harm Wildlife and Sportsmen

In fighting for the rights of gun owners, hunters and shooters, last week the NRA teamed up with 20 other members of the coalition American Wildlife Conservation Partners to send a letter to Congressional leaders expressing strong opposition to H.R. 2814: the Equal Access to Justice for Victims of Gun Violence Act. Introduced by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the legislation aims to repeal portions of the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), which supporters say provides “blanket immunity” to the firearm industry from lawsuits. To the contrary, the PLCAA only prevents lawsuits against firearm manufacturers, distributors and retailers that attempt to hold them liable for criminal acts of third parties who misuse legal, non-defective firearms sold following a background check. If passed, rather than reduce violent crime, H.R. 2814 would devastate wildlife conservation funding and reduce access and opportunities for American hunters and shooters.

Addressed to House speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Republican leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), the letter explains, “The PLCAA does not block legitimate lawsuits for defective products, unlawful sales, breach of contract or warranty, negligent entrustment or other legitimate causes that are not related to third-party criminal misuse of firearms. Members of the firearm industry ought to be held to the same legal standard as any other industry, but no industry is held liable in America for the criminal and unlawful misuse of their legally sold products.”

Many hunters and shooters will remember when the PLCAA was enacted 17 years ago amid numerous frivolous lawsuits against firearm manufacturers that aimed to shut down the firearm industry. Repealing the PLCAA would reignite these lawsuits and threaten the firearm industry’s future.

As for the negative domino effects of H.R. 2814 on wildlife conservation, the letter shares how it would wreak the budgets of state fish and wildlife agencies across America. Referencing the Pittman-Robertson Act of 1937, which provides for a “user pays-public benefits” American System of Conservation Funding, the letter states, “The Act, which directs an excise tax on the sale of firearms, ammunition, and archery equipment, is the primary funding source for state fish and wildlife agencies who utilize the funds to undertake wildlife conservation, provide for hunter and recreational shooter recruitment, public shooting range construction and other activities.”

As NRA Publications recently reported, the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service announced that the revenue generated by the P-R Act’s excise tax has eclipsed an impressive $15 billion to date, with more than $1.1 billion contributed in 2021 alone. Though it goes without saying, the letter adds, “All people who value wildlife should be concerned about the possible loss of funding that could result if the viability of American firearms manufacturers were placed in jeopardy.” And then there is the fact that repealing the PLCAA and exposing the firearm industry to frivolous lawsuits would diminish law-abiding Americans’ Second Amendment rights.

Another concern AWCP signatories point out is that H.R.2814 would permit the public release of firearm trace data, putting the law enforcement community, witnesses and firearm retailers at risk. “The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATF) has said repeatedly that ‘the appearance of [dealer] or a first unlicensed purchaser of record in association with a crime gun or in association with multiple crime guns in no way suggests that either the FFL or the first purchaser has committed criminal acts.’ Publicly releasing firearm trace data that could include the name of hunters and target shooters who, exercising their constitutional rights, lawfully purchased a firearm is deeply concerning.”

The National Sheriffs’ Association (NSA), comprised of more than 3,000 sheriffs and their deputies, also sent a letter to Congressional leaders last week opposing the trace data section of the bill, referring to it as “a clear and present danger to our members.” Signed by Jonathan F. Thompson, NSA executive director and CEO, it calls out the fact that sheriffs have hundreds of ongoing gun investigations at any one time and rely on the BATF to help get them closed and get dangerous criminals off the street.

“To simply give this trace information to outside parties is unacceptable, dangerous, a gift to criminals, and would clearly bring to a close the trace program,” the NSA letter states. “Sheriffs and deputies are in harm’s way every day and this bill would add another threat to our daily work.” The letter concluded by questioning why a member of Congress [Rep. Schiff] would pursue such a dangerous legislative initiative with crime so out of control.

For all the above reasons, the NRA and AWCP partner groups instead stand with American hunters and shooters in opposing H.R. 2814, urging Congress to work toward pragmatic solutions that also benefit wildlife conservation and the economy while protecting America’s hunting and recreational shooting heritage. Isn’t that what all Americans should want?

Please stay tuned for updates on H.R. 2814 in the coming weeks. In the meantime, the NRA Institute for Legislative Action will continue fighting to preserve the rights of law-abiding gun owners to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.