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June 23, 2021

Crunch Time as N.Y. Counties Tell Cuomo Loud and Clear: ‘Don’t Sign Antigun Bill.”

By Larry Keane

They’ve watched as the Empire State’s staunchly antigun legislature continues to attack their Second Amendment right and the industry that supports it. Now New York county legislatures are raising their collective voices, trying to stop Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo from doing what comes naturally – suffocating the rights of law-abiding New Yorkers from purchasing and possessing firearms.

It’s crunch time in New York for the firearm industry.

Inalienable Right, Not Public Nuisance

Antigun legislators hold supermajorities in both the State Assembly and State Senate. It was only a matter of time before a gun control bill based on complete lies and fabrications passed through, even with a fight from gun rights supporters. So is the case now as State Sen. Zellnor Myrie (D-Brooklyn) and Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy (D-Albany) ushered through legislation to allow civil lawsuits against law-abiding firearm manufacturers and retailers by amending the state’s “public nuisance” law. The bill declares the illegal possession and criminal misuse of firearms a public nuisance (we agree) but then seeks to blame members of the industry who lawfully sell firearms for this criminal justice problem.

“Responsible gun companies do not need special legal protections from lawsuits,” said the bill’s chief senate sponsor, Sen. Zellnor Myrie. That’s exactly right. But the firearm industry and retailers don’t have special legal protections. Sen. Myrie either knows this and is playing politics or is willfully ignorant about his own bill. The claim long pushed by antigun politicians like President Biden that the firearm industry gets blanket immunity is false. Even CNN pointed out the whopper: “Facts First: This (claim) is false. Gun manufacturers are not entirely exempt from being sued, nor are they only industry with some liability protections. Under the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), gun manufacturers cannot be held liable for the use of their products in a crime.”

If signed by Gov. Cuomo, the law would essentially gut the bipartisan Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) and open up a new tidal wave of frivolous lawsuits against the industry not seen since the late 1990s and early 2000s. Back then, members of our industry were being sued – largely by big cities like New York – for lawfully selling firearms later misused by criminals.  No other industry has been held legally responsible for the criminal misuse of their lawfully sold products. The PLCAA was passed in direct response to these junk lawsuits. A federal appellate court in Manhattan dismissed the City of New York’s public nuisance case against members of the industry holding that New York’s public nuisance law did not fit within the PLCAA’s exception that allow claims for violations of laws applicable to the sale and marketing of firearms, like the Gun Control Act. This bill, now on Gov. Cuomo’s desk, is intended to, in effect, overrule the appellate court’s decision by seeking to apply New York’s public nuisance law expressly to the sale and marketing of firearms.

Prof. Victor Schwartz, the nation’s leading authority on tort law, called this New York public nuisance bill a cheap shot in a N.Y. Daily News op-ed.

The last step before the bill becomes law is the signature of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. His antigun record is longer than the Hudson River.

Fighting For the Right

The impact the law would have on New York-based firearm manufacturers and retailers would be devastating, causing many to move to friendlier states, and in the case of local retailers, shut down completely. Jane Havens, owner of Calamity Jane’s Firearms in Kingsbury, N.Y., in Washington County, said if the bill became law her insurance company would drop her coverage. Havens is also a member of the Kingsbury Town Board, and helped usher through a county Board of Legislators resolution urging Gov. Cuomo to not sign the bill.

Noting lawful firearm ownership is Constitutionally-protected, the resolution reads in part, “New York state should be proud of our manufacturers of firearms and components and Washington County appreciates the sales tax revenue on all hunting and sporting equipment, firearms, ammunition and accessories sold through dealers.” Washington County legislators passed the resolution unanimously.

They aren’t alone. Herkimer County, where Remington Arms is based, also unanimously passed their resolution. Orleans and Genesee counties joined the effort. Schuyler County did so too unanimously, and several additional counties have slated votes on resolutions urging the governor not to sign the bill.

A Million Here. A Million There.

Gov. Cuomo has a distinct title he can’t shake as he runs for yet another term. He’s not only overseen the loss of more than one million jobs in 2020, he’s been at the helm as 1.4 million New Yorkers have left since 2011, when his tenure began. If he signs the firearm “public nuisance” law, those numbers will certainly grow.

For more than two hundred years, the Empire State has had a proud history of firearm manufacturers. But now that history is changing as industry members reevaluate their circumstances and move to more firearm friendly states. Ilion, N.Y.-based Remington is watching what happens very closely. Kimber has relocated and Dark Storm Industries is doing so as well. Check-Mate Industries, a handgun and rifle magazine and other firearm accessories manufacture, pulled up roots too and there are others.

All told, the remaining firearm industry footprint in New York in 2021 totals more than 8,600 direct jobs paying nearly $726 million in wages and an economic output of more than $2.3 billion. Governor Cuomo may not care and ultimately sign the bill into law. At least there are tens of thousands of New Yorkers fighting tooth and nail to urge him not to and standing up for the God-given right to keep and bear firearms.

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