Immunity Statutes in California

See our Immunity Statutes / Manufacturer Litigation policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

California no longer provides legal immunity for the firearms industry, although a federal law enacted in 2005 does. On September 25, 2002, California Governor Gray Davis signed legislation to repeal an immunity law that California adopted in 1983 that had provided special legal protection to the gun industry. That statute had stated that, “[i]n a product liability action, no firearm or ammunition must be deemed defective in design on the basis that the benefits of the product do not outweigh the risk of injury posed by its potential to cause serious injury, damage, or death when discharged.” The California Legislature moved to repeal the immunity law following the California Supreme Court’s decision in Merrill v. Navegar, a case holding that the California immunity law immunized an assault weapons manufacturer from a negligence action brought by the victims of the 101 California Street massacre.1

However, on October 26, 2005, the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (“PLCAA”) became law.2 The PLCAA generally immunizes gun manufacturers, distributors, and dealers from liability whenever a person is damaged as a result of the “criminal or unlawful misuse” of a firearm, even if that criminal act or misuse is foreseeable because of industry negligence or recklessness. This sweeping legislation precludes most actions in state as well as federal court and required the immediate dismissal of most pending lawsuits against the gun industry. The PLCAA also nullified California’s repeal of its own immunity law.

The validity and scope of the PLCAA and its exceptions are being tested in courts across the country. For information about these lawsuits and more information about the PLCAA in general, see the Immunity Statutes section of our federal law page.

California law also limits the liability of sport shooting ranges for noise or noise pollution resulting from the range.3

For detailed information about government and private party lawsuits against the gun industry, the status of litigation involving gun industry immunity statutes in various states, or pending gun industry immunity legislation, visit the Brady Center’s Legal Action Project and the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence’s Gun Industry Immunity page.

Notes
  1. Merrill v. Navegar, 28 P.3d 116 (Cal. 2001).
  2. 15 U.S.C. §§ 7901 – 7903.
  3. Cal. Civil Code § 3482.1(b) provides:
    (1) Except as provided in [§ 3482.1(f)], a person who operates or uses a sport shooting range in this state must not be subject to civil liability or criminal prosecution in any matter relating to noise or noise pollution resulting from the operation or use of the range if the range is in compliance with any noise control laws or ordinances that applied to the range and its operation at the time construction or operation of the range was approved by a local public entity having jurisdiction in the matter, or if there were no such laws or ordinances that applied to the range and its operation at that time.
    (2) Except as provided in [§ 3482.1(f)], a person who operates or uses a sport shooting range or law enforcement training range is not subject to an action for nuisance, and a court must not enjoin the use or operation of a range on the basis of noise or noise pollution if the range is in compliance with any noise control laws or ordinances that applied to the range and its operation at the time construction or operation of the range was approved by a local public entity having jurisdiction in the matter, or if there were no such laws or ordinances that applied to the range and its operation at that time.
    Cal. Civ. Code § 3482.1(f) provides that local jurisdictions may require that noise levels at the nearest residential property line to a range not exceed the level of normal city street noise, which must not be more than 60 decibels for nighttime shooting.

Immunity Statutes in New York

New York law provides no special immunity to the gun industry.

For detailed information about government and private party lawsuits against the gun industry, the status of litigation involving gun industry immunity statutes in various states, or pending gun industry immunity legislation, visit the Brady Center’s Legal Action Project and the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence’s Gun Industry Immunity page.

See our Immunity Statutes / Manufacturer Litigation policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Immunity Statutes in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania law prohibits certain lawsuits by political subdivisions against firearms or ammunition manufacturers, trade associations or dealers.1 For further information, see Local Authority to Regulate Firearms in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania law also states that all owners of rifle or pistol ranges are exempt and immune from any civil action or criminal prosecution in any matter relating to noise or noise pollution resulting from the normal and accepted shooting activity on ranges, provided that the owners of the ranges are in compliance with any applicable noise control laws or ordinances existing at the time construction of the range was initiated.2 Owners of such ranges are also not subject to any action for nuisance and no court may enjoin the use or operation of the ranges on the basis of noise or noise pollution, provided that the owners of the ranges are in compliance with any applicable noise control laws or ordinances existing at the time construction of the range was initiated.3 If no noise control laws or ordinances existed at the time construction of the range was initiated, then the immunity granted by these provisions applies to the ranges.

For detailed information about government and private party lawsuits against the gun industry, the status of litigation involving gun industry immunity statutes in various states, or pending gun industry immunity legislation, visit the Brady Center’s Legal Action Project and the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence’s Gun Industry Immunity page.

See our Immunity Statutes / Manufacturer Litigation policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Notes
  1. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6120(a.1)(1).
  2. 35 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 4501.
  3. 35 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 4502.

Immunity Statutes in Ohio

Ohio law prevents any member of the firearms industry from being held liable for damages or from being subject to an injunction as a result of the operation or discharge of a firearm. This rule does not apply, however, if the industry member operated or discharged the firearm that resulted in the harm in a tortious manner, or if the industry member sold, lent, gave, or furnished the firearm illegally. This rule also does not apply to a product liability action, or an action for breach of contract or breach of an express warranty.1

Ohio provides limited immunity for owners, operators or users of a shooting range.2

For detailed information about government and private party lawsuits against the gun industry, the status of litigation involving gun industry immunity statutes in various states, or pending gun industry immunity legislation, visit the Brady Center’s Legal Action Project and the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence’s Gun Industry Immunity page.

See our Immunity Statutes policy page for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

 

Notes
  1. Ohio Rev. Code § 2305.401(B). “Member of the firearms industry” means any manufacturer, dealer, or importer of firearms, firearms components, or firearms ammunition or any trade association the members of which, in whole or in part, are manufacturers, dealers, or importers of firearms, firearms components, or firearms ammunition. Ohio Rev. Code § 2305.401(A)(4), (C)(2), (3). This statute also applies to tort or other civil actions commenced on or after the effective date of this section, or commenced prior to and pending on the effective date of this section, for damages or injunctive relief based upon harm allegedly sustained by any person as a result of the operation or discharge of a firearm. Ohio Rev. Code § 2305.401(D).
  2. Owners, operators, or users of a shooting range are not liable in damages to any person for harm allegedly caused by noise at a range or the failure to limit or suppress noise at a range if the owner, operator, or user substantially complies with noise rules prescribed by the Chief of the Division of Wildlife (“Chief”). Ohio Rev. Code § 1533.85(A)(1), (2). These provisions do not confer immunity from civil liability in relation to an owner’s, operator’s, or user’s actions or omissions that constitute negligence, willful or wanton misconduct, or intentionally tortious conduct if those actions or omissions are not the subject of the Chief’s noise rules or are not in substantial compliance with the Chief’s rules. Ohio Rev. Code § 1533.85(A)(2)(d). State and municipal courts are not permitted to grant injunctive relief against the owner or operator of a shooting range in a nuisance action if the court determines that the owner’s or operator’s actions or omissions that are the subject of a complaint substantially complied with the Chief’s noise or public safety rules, whichever apply to the nuisance action. Ohio Rev. Code § 1533.85(C).

Immunity Statutes in New Jersey

New Jersey has no laws providing immunity to the firearm industry.

For detailed information about government and private party lawsuits against the gun industry, the status of litigation involving gun industry immunity statutes in various states, or pending gun industry immunity legislation, visit the Brady Center’s Legal Action Project and the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence’s Gun Industry Immunity page.

See our Immunity Statutes policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Immunity Statutes in Massachusetts

See our Immunity Statutes / Manufacturer Litigation policy summary for further information.

Massachusetts has no law providing immunity to the firearms industry. See the Locking Devices section for information on the liability of manufacturers, importers and sellers of handguns or large capacity weapons that do not include or incorporate safety devices.

For detailed information about government and private party lawsuits against the gun industry, the status of litigation involving gun industry immunity statutes in various states, or pending gun industry immunity legislation, visit the Brady Center’s Legal Action Project and the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence’s Gun Industry Immunity page.

Immunity Statutes in Wisconsin

Wisconsin permits the establishment and operation of rifle ranges for “sharpshooting or improving in the use of firearms.”1 Once the grounds of the range are permanently located and developed, no private individuals or parties who acquire title to any property adversely affected by such ranges may file a lawsuit seeking to “restrain, enjoin or impede” the activities at the ranges or of the corporations owning them.2

Any person who owns or operates a sport shooting range is immune from civil liability related to noise resulting from the operation of the range.3 In addition, any person who owns or operates a sport shooting range is not subject to an action for nuisance and no court may enjoin or restrain the operation or use of a sport shooting range on the basis of noise.4 “Sport shooting range” means an area designed and operated for the use and discharge of firearms.5

For detailed information about government and private party lawsuits against the gun industry, the status of litigation involving gun industry immunity statutes in various states, or pending gun industry immunity legislation, visit the Brady Center’s Legal Action Project and the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence’s Gun Industry Immunity page.

See our Immunity Statutes / Manufacturer Litigation policy summary for further information.

Notes
  1. Wis. Stat. § 182.021.
  2. Id.
  3. Wis. Stat. § 895.527(2).
  4. Wis. Stat. § 895.527(3).
  5. Wis. Stat. § 895.527(1).

Immunity Statutes in Illinois

In Illinois, owners or operators of firearm ranges in existence on January 1, 1994 are not subject to any action for public or private nuisance or trespass, and no court shall enjoin the use or operation of a firearm range on the basis of noise or sound emissions resulting from the normal use of the firearm range.1 Owners or operators of firearm ranges placed in operation after January 1, 1994 are not subject to any action for public or private nuisance or trespass arising out of or as a consequence of noise or sound emissions resulting from the normal use of the firearm range, if the firearm range conforms to any one of the following requirements:

  • All areas from which a firearm may be properly discharged are at least 1,000 yards from any occupied permanent dwelling on adjacent property;
  • All areas from which a firearm may be properly discharged are enclosed by a permanent building or structure that absorbs or contains sound energy escaping from the muzzle of firearms in use;
  • If the firearm range is situated on land otherwise subject to land use zoning, the firearm range is in compliance with the requirements of the zoning authority;
  • The firearm range is operated by a governmental entity or is licensed by the Department of Natural Resources; or
  • The firearm range met the 1,000-yard restriction described in the first bullet point, above, at the time the range began its operation and subsequently an occupied permanent dwelling on adjacent property was built within 1,000 yards from an area of the range from which a firearm may be properly discharged.2

In 2004, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled against the plaintiffs in two cases against the firearms industry, City of Chicago v. Beretta Corp., 821 N.E.2d 1099 (Ill. 2004), brought by the City of Chicago and Cook County, and Young v. Bryco Arms, 821 N.E.2d 1078 (Ill. 2004), brought by private plaintiffs. In both cases the Illinois Supreme Court reversed lower court decisions and held that the plaintiffs could not pursue public nuisance claims under state law.

Plaintiffs made similar allegations in both cases: plaintiffs asserted public nuisance claims against various gun manufacturers, distributors and dealers, claiming that their marketing and distribution practices intentionally and unreasonably interfered with the public’s right to use Chicago’s streets and other public areas without fear for their lives or the risk of injury. Plaintiffs claimed that the defendants were responsible for intentionally creating and maintaining a public nuisance – an underground market of firearms – in which defendants marketed and sold handguns made to appeal to juveniles and criminals. Further, plaintiffs claimed these manufacturers and distributors intentionally created and fostered an environment that encouraged purchasers to illegally transport handguns into Chicago and flood that market with such weapons. At the time of the lawsuits, Chicago banned the possession of handguns. Chicago bans the sale of handguns.

The Illinois Supreme Court rejected plaintiffs’ claims in their entirety, holding that plaintiffs failed to state a claim for public nuisance against the defendants. The court concluded that the manufacturer and distributor defendants owed no duty to the City of Chicago or its residents to prevent the defendants’ firearms from ending up in the hands of criminals. With respect to the dealer defendants, the court found that these defendants could not be legally responsible for the alleged nuisance which resulted from the intervening criminal acts of third parties (i.e., the shooters) over whom the defendants had no control. The court also cited “strong public policy reasons” in favor of deferring the matter of regulating the manufacture, distribution and sale of firearms to the legislature. In a strongly-worded concurrence in the Young case, five of seven justices described the plaintiffs’ factual allegations as “disturbing,” and urged the Illinois legislature to address the issue. The plaintiffs’ petition for rehearing in City of Chicago v. Beretta Corp. was denied. City of Chicago v. Beretta U.S.A. Corp., 2005 Ill. LEXIS 12 (Ill. Jan. 24, 2005).

To read the Illinois Supreme Court’s opinion in Young v. Bryco Arms, click here; for the court’s opinion in City of Chicago v. Beretta U.S.A. Corp., click here.

For detailed information about government and private party lawsuits against the gun industry, the status of litigation involving gun industry immunity statutes in various states, or pending gun industry immunity legislation, visit the Brady Center’s Legal Action Project and the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence’s Gun Industry Immunity page.

See our Immunity Statutes policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Notes
  1. 740 Ill. Comp. Stat. 130/5(b).
  2. 740 Ill. Comp. Stat. 130/5(c).

Immunity Statutes in the District of Columbia

The District of Columbia has no firearm-related immunity laws.

For detailed information about government and private party lawsuits against the gun industry, the status of litigation involving gun industry immunity statutes in various states, or pending gun industry immunity legislation, visit the Brady Center’s Legal Action Project and the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence’s Gun Industry Immunity page.

See our Immunity Statutes / Manufacturer Litigation policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Immunity Statutes in Idaho

A governmental unit (defined by state law as a political subdivision of the state, including a municipality or county, or any other governmental agency whose authority is derived from the laws or constitution of Idaho) may not bring suit against a firearms or ammunition manufacturer, trade association or seller for recovery of damages resulting from, or injunctive relief or abatement of a nuisance relating to, the lawful design, manufacture, marketing or sale of firearms or ammunition to the public.1

However, a governmental unit on behalf of the state or any other governmental unit may bring a suit against a firearms or ammunition manufacturer, trade association or seller if the suit is approved in advance by the legislature by adoption of a concurrent resolution or by enactment of a statute.2 In addition, the state attorney general may bring a suit against a firearms or ammunition manufacturer, trade association or seller on behalf of the state or any other governmental unit.3

A governmental unit may bring an action against a firearms manufacturer, trade association or seller for recovery of damages for:

  • Breach of contract or warranty as to firearms or ammunition purchased by a governmental unit;
  • Damage or harm to property owned or leased by the governmental unit caused by a defective firearm or ammunition; or
  • Injunctive relief to enforce a valid ordinance, statute or rule.4

State law provides that in a products liability action, no firearm or ammunition shall be deemed defective in design on the basis that the benefits of the product do not outweigh the risk of injury posed by its potential to cause serious injury, damage, or death when discharged.5

The Idaho Legislature has also declared that, in product liability actions, the potential of a firearm or ammunition to cause serious injury, damage, or death when discharged does not make the product defective in design.6 Furthermore, the legislature deems that injuries or damages resulting from the discharge of a firearm or ammunition are not proximately caused by the potential of a firearm or ammunition to cause serious injury, damage, or death, but are proximately caused by the actual discharge of the product.7

Nevertheless, Idaho law does not foreclose a products liability cause of action based upon the improper selection of design alternatives.8

For information about limitations on the liability of sport shooting ranges, see Local Authority to Regulate Firearms in Idaho.

For detailed information about government and private party lawsuits against the gun industry, the status of litigation involving gun industry immunity statutes in various states, or pending gun industry immunity legislation, visit the Brady Center’s Legal Action Project and the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence’s Gun Industry Immunity page.

See our Immunity Statutes / Manufacturer Litigation policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Notes
  1. Idaho Code Ann. §§ 5-247(2), 5-247(1).
  2. Idaho Code Ann. § 5-247(3).
  3. Idaho Code Ann. § 5-247(5).
  4. Idaho Code Ann. § 5-247(4).
  5. Idaho Code Ann. § 6-1410(1).
  6. Idaho Code Ann. § 6-1410(2)(a).
  7. Idaho Code Ann. § 6-1410(2)(b).
  8. Idaho Code Ann. § 6-1410(3).