Torts and Guns

28 Pages Posted: 19 Sep 2017

See all articles by Stephen D. Sugarman

Stephen D. Sugarman

University of California, Berkeley - School of Law

Date Written: April 20, 2017


When Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders squabbled during their 2015-16 election campaigns over the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCCA), they were talking past each other, misleading their listeners, and failing to understand what this statute pre-empting some state tort claims against the gun industry was actually about. Many critics of PLCCA argue that gun makers and sellers should be liable just like those in the auto, pharmaceutical drug, and tobacco industries. Yet, it is very rare for defendants in those industries to be successfully sued in tort for the sort of conduct that gun control advocates would like to hold the gun industry liable. In contrast to the hopes and fears of Clinton and Sanders, repealing PLCCA would not likely result in a burst of successful lawsuits, although some might be winners. Perhaps potential and actual tort litigation against this industry is better understood as part of a longer term battle over public opinion and eventual legislative reform.

Keywords: Gun litigation; tort claims; pre-emption; negligent marketing

JEL Classification: K13

Suggested Citation

Sugarman, Stephen D., Torts and Guns (April 20, 2017). UC Berkeley Public Law Research Paper, Available at SSRN: or

Stephen D. Sugarman (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley - School of Law ( email )

215 Boalt Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
United States
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