After a year of left-wing “success” on criminal-justice issues, an increasing prosecutorial indifference to violent crime and escalating anti-police rhetoric, America’s urban residents are reaping what their politicians have sown.
Violent crime has exploded in New York. The New York Post reported that in New York City “the number of shootings soared 97% from 777 in 2019 to 1,531 in 2020 and murders jumped by 44% from 319 to 462.” According to Rochester’s Democrat & Chronicle, in that city “[t]here were 50 homicides in 2020, up 56% from 32 in 2019 and 28 in 2018.” The Syracuse Post-Standard reported that homicides were up 55 percent in the Salt City from 2019 to 2020.
Rather than acknowledge their responsibility for the current fiasco, politicians and the legacy press have taken to scapegoating law-abiding gun owners and attempting to link the unprecedented gun sales in 2020 with the increase in violent crime. When, actually, it’s the other way around. Americans began exercising their Second Amendment rights in record numbers last year because of the lawlessness that these politicians allowed to occur on their watch.
In May, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked, “is there a crime problem in this country?” to which she responded, “I would certainly say there is a guns problem.” In July, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) whined, “There are just too damn many guns out there.” That month, MSNBC’s Chris Hayes opined, “America is a violent place. America has a lot of guns. And last year, Americans got a lot more guns and got more violent.”
These lazy assertions conveniently avoid the fact that violent crime decreased 52 percent from 1991 to 2019 while Americans acquired 215 million additional firearms—doubling the stock of privately held guns.
Moreover, a July study published in Injury Epidemiology concluded, “[a]t the state level, the magnitude of the increase in [firearm] purchasing was not associated with the magnitude of the increase in firearm violence.” The researchers went on to add that their results “suggest much of the rise in firearm violence during our study period was attributable to other factors.”
Never one to let facts get in the way of politics, on July 6, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo joined the left-wing obfuscation effort by issuing a “Declaration of a State Wide Disaster Emergency Due to Gun Violence.” A summary of his plan was short on details, but a redoubled effort to prosecute and incarcerate those who commit violence with firearms was conspicuously absent. Notably, Gov. Cuomo’s signature gun-control legislation, known as the SAFE Act, doesn’t seem to be working because New Yorkers haven’t been less “safe” in decades.
That same day, Cuomo signed legislation encouraging lawsuits against gun dealers and manufacturers for otherwise lawful conduct that creates a “public nuisance.” The law imposes a vague burden on the gun industry to “establish and utilize reasonable controls and procedures to prevent its [firearms, firearm parts, and accessories] from being possessed, used, marketed or sold unlawfully in New York state.”
This tactic will be familiar to longtime gun-rights supporters. In the mid-1990s, the federal government, big city mayors and plaintiff’s attorneys coalesced around a plan to attack the firearm industry using frivolous lawsuits that would have held gun companies liable for the criminal actions of third parties.
In addition to bilking the firearm industry out of millions, these actors intended to force firearm manufacturers to adopt gun controls that anti-gun advocates had failed to achieve through democratic means or to force the industry out of existence. In 1998, the executive director of the anti-gun U.S. Conference of Mayors told The New York Times, “[t]he lawyers are seeing green on this issue ... they think they can bring the gun industry to its knees.” That year, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo positioned HUD to join several local governments in bringing frivolous lawsuits against the gun industry.
As a direct response to the behavior of Cuomo and others, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) was enacted in 2005. The PLCAA prohibits lawsuits against the gun industry for the criminal misuse of their products by a third party. Suits against the industry for knowingly unlawful sales, negligent entrustment and those predicated on traditional product-liability grounds are still permitted. We must make sure that New York’s attempt to nullify this vital federal law comes to nothing.
Thanks to Cuomo’s effort to scapegoat the firearms community, law-abiding firearm businesses will be forced to defend themselves from frivolous claims at great expense, gun owners will be forced to pay the higher prices that come with this new threat of liability, New York taxpayers will be forced to foot the bill for defending this illegal statute in federal court and the safety of the state’s residents will continue to suffer.