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New York AG could try to sue gun manufacturers under new law

July 7, 2021 GMT
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Surrounded by supporters and advocates, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, center, signs legislation on gun control in New York, Tuesday, July 6, 2021. Cuomo signed two pieces of legislation to combat gun violence in New York state. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
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Surrounded by supporters and advocates, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, center, signs legislation on gun control in New York, Tuesday, July 6, 2021. Cuomo signed two pieces of legislation to combat gun violence in New York state. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York can try to sue gun manufacturers over harm caused by their products under legislation that Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed Tuesday.

The new law comes at a time when New York City in particular is facing a rise in shootings. Overall, violence is well short of the historic highs of the 1990s, or even in the New York of the early 2000s.

But the Democratic-led Legislature has pushed to pass several gun control measures this year, including legislation that would prohibit the sale, purchase or transfer of firearms to anyone with an outstanding warrant for a felony or serious offense.

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The federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act of 2005 gave gun manufacturers immunity from lawsuits related to the criminal misuse of their products. Supporters of New York’s bill argue that gun manufacturers can still be held liable if they violate other laws concerning the sale or marketing of firearms.

“Plain and simple, this was federal overreach to protect the gun industry in every way possible,” Attorney General Letitia James said. “But, today, New York state took an important step to right that wrong and protect its citizens from gun violence.”

It’s unclear, however, whether that argument will survive being challenged in court.

James said she is “ready to defend” the law, which, for example, would allow her or a locality to sue gun manufacturers for harming the public by neglecting to take steps to prevent firearms from being sold unlawfully in New York.

Cuomo also said Tuesday he would declare that gun violence in his state is a “disaster emergency” and start tracking hotspots of shootings. Cuomo said declaring the emergency will make it easier to spend money on efforts to address and reduce gun violence.

The Democrat said he’s launching an office on gun violence prevention to collect data from the state’s major police departments. And he said a new Governor’s Council on Gun Violence Reduction will come up with recommendations to address gun violence.

Cuomo didn’t release specifics on the initiatives immediately Tuesday, including the cost of the new office, how much emergency money or what kind of “resources” would be sent to hot spots, or how exactly the state plans to reduce and prevent gun violence.