Bye Bye to Unconstitutional Gun Lawsuit

A highly-publicized gun lawsuit has bitten the dust.

Earlier, the D.C. Court of Appeals allowed Washington, D.C. residents to sue out-of-state businesses under D.C. law for selling guns in states where such gun sales were perfectly legal, simply because the guns later ended up in the District of Columbia, where criminals used them to commit acts of violence. That violates the Dormant Commerce Clause.

After that decision, Congress passed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), barring such lawsuits against gunmakers and businesses for the acts of criminals. This was a lawful exercise of Congress’ power to protect interstate commerce.

The D.C. Court of Appeals has now applied the PLCAA to throw out the lawsuit in District of Columbia v. Beretta. It rejected arguments that the PLCAA violated the constitutional “Separation of Powers” by changing the law in the middle of a lawsuit.

The argument that a law violates the constitution by changing the law is very dumb. Congress does this all the time. For example, the 1964 Civil Rights Act abated criminal convictions that had already occurred, retroactively turning certain forms of non-violent civil disobedience from illegal into protected activity.

But an Indiana state court judge, egged on by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, accepted just such an argument in City of Gary v. Smith & Wesson, declaring unconstitutional the PLCAA and its attempt to bar gun lawsuits. As the D.C. Court of Appeals has now recognized, that declaration was plainly wrong.

Ironically, even as the Brady Campaign claims that unelected judges should strike down the PLCAA, which Congress overwhelmingly-passed, it complains that striking down gun bans based on the Second Amendment is “judicial activism,” even though the Second Amendment’s text expressly protects the “right to keep and bear arms.”