CATSKILL — Greene County lawmakers passed a resolution opposing a bill calling for firearms manufacturers to be held liable for the “public nuisance” created by firearms.
It’s unclear when Gov. Andrew Cuomo will see the bill on his desk.
The county Legislature unanimously voted at its June 16 meeting on a resolution urging the governor not to sign the impending bill. The proposed bill seeks to hold the firearms industry liable for the “specific harm illegal firearms violence causes New Yorkers,” according to the legislation, which passed both the state Assembly and Senate on June 8 but has not been delivered to the governor.
The bill would open up opportunities to sue manufacturers and gun retailers in civil cases where a preponderance of evidence shows that untenable risk was not avoided; for example, if a gun dealer does not have adequate physical security measures like cameras to prevent thefts, U.S. Rep. Patricia Fahy, D-Albany, said June 8.
The resolution passed by Greene County said Remington Arms, a firearms manufacturer with a plant in Ilion, employs upstate New Yorkers and supplies many retailers in the county. Hunting and hunting-related events are “a major recreational activity” for residents as well as an attraction that draws people to the county every season.
The bill, if signed into law, would infringe on the Constitution’s Second Amendment right to bear arms — which applies to the states — and could set a liability precedent for other industries like car companies and beer sales, according to the resolution.
Assemblyman Chris Tague, R-Schoharie, expressed similar concerns in the June 8 Assembly session.
“If you buy a vehicle, and you go out and drive drunk and you end up in an accident, are you going to turn around and sue the manufacturer?” Tague said.
According to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check database, the state of New York performed nearly 506,000 background checks for firearms sales in 2020. During the 2019-20 season, more than 591,000 people held hunting licenses in the state, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
Hank Coons, president of the Greene County Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs, said with the laws in the place now, if people who abuse firearms were prosecuted, no more legislation would be necessary.
“The only feeling I have about it is to hold gun manufacturers responsible for something some fool is going to do is wrong. It’s wrong. Bottom line,” Coons said. “There’s lots of things that you can hold people responsible for, but not gun manufacturers.”