See our policy page on Gun Industry Immunity for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.
Pennsylvania law prohibits certain lawsuits by political subdivisions against firearms or ammunition manufacturers, trade associations or dealers.1
Section 6120(a.1) provides:
No political subdivision may bring or maintain an action at law or in equity against any firearms or ammunition manufacturer, trade association or dealer for damages, abatement, injunctive relief or any other relief or remedy resulting from or relating to either the lawful design or manufacture of firearms or ammunition or the lawful marketing or sale of firearms or ammunition to the public.
Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to prohibit a political subdivision from bringing or maintaining an action against a firearms or ammunition manufacturer or dealer for breach of contract or warranty as to firearms or ammunition purchased by the political subdivision.2
Section 6120(a.1) has been held to preclude negligence suits by local jurisdictions against gun manufacturers. In Philadelphia v. Beretta, Philadelphia and a number of civic organizations sued several gun manufacturers, alleging that the defendants’ marketing and distribution schemes were responsible for allowing access to firearms by criminals and other prohibited purchasers, thereby harming Philadelphia’s residents.3 Liability was predicated on the defendants’ alleged negligence and the creation of a public nuisance.4
The federal district court, in upholding the constitutionality of section 6120, held that the state “legislature may contract the power of home rule municipalities such as Philadelphia.”5 Finding the city’s lawsuit was based on power it could only have received from the state legislature, and that this power had been revoked by section 6120, the court dismissed the action, holding that “the power to regulate firearms within the state [by legislation or litigation] now lies exclusively with the state legislature.”6
Shooting and Noise Pollution
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.7 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.8 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.