On Feb. 3, 2022, U.S. President Joe Biden claimed in a speech about gun violence and policing in New York City that gun manufacturers are part of “the only industry in America” that is exempt from being sued.
Sitting next to New York State officials, including Gov. Kathy Hochul and Attorney General Merrick Garland, Biden asserted the following, according to video footage of the event and the official White House transcript:
Imagine had we had a liability — they’re the only industry in America that is exempted from being able to be sued by the public. The only one. Imagine had that been the way with cigarette manufacturers. Where the hell would we — where the heck would we be? We’d be in tough shape.
Why gun manufacturers? Because of the power of their lobbying ability. It’s got to end. End. They’ve got to be held responsible for the things that they do that are irresponsible.
And, folks, you know, it’s the only industry in America, as I said, that’s exempt from being sued. And I think — I find it to be outrageous.
[See The Associated Press’ coverage of Biden’s full remarks in New York City here.]
BIDEN: Gun manufacturers are "the only industry in America that is exempted from being sued, and I find it to be outrageous." pic.twitter.com/T9LU7hQLP0
— Townhall.com (@townhallcom) February 3, 2022
The president’s statement was untrue on multiple levels.
While the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act provides gun manufacturers some exemptions in liability (it grants them immunity against lawsuits alleging wrongdoing because their products were used in crimes), people can still sue gun manufacturers for a variety of reasons and be successful.
Next, the country’s gun-making industry is not the only sector for which federal lawmakers have developed some liability protections. For example, the federal government has granted vaccine manufacturers such as Pfizer and Moderna immunity from liability if something goes unintentionally wrong with their COVID-19 shots, as reported by CNBC.
CNN fact-checking database said of the president’s Feb. 3 claim:
[Gun] manufacturers can still be held liable for (and thus sued for) a range of things, including negligence, breach of contract regarding the purchase of a gun, or certain damages from defects in the design of a gun.
In 2019, the Supreme Court allowed a lawsuit against gun manufacturer Remington Arms Company to continue. The plaintiffs, a survivor and families of nine other victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting, are attempting to hold the company, which manufactured the semi-automatic rifle that was used in the killing, partly responsible by targeting the company’s marketing practices, another area where gun manufacturers can be held liable.
Other industries also have some exemptions in liability. For example, vaccine manufacturers cannot be held liable in a civil suit for damages from a vaccine-related injury or death. And for the next four years, pharmaceutical companies developing the Covid-19 vaccines will have immunity from liability under the 2005 Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act. Those who claim to have been harmed by vaccines may receive money from the government, not the pharmaceutical company, via the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.
For those reasons, we rate this claim “False.”
We reached out the White House’s press office in an email that laid out the above-outlined evidence that proves the president’s statement wrong. We will update this report when, or if, we receive a comment.
Curious about how Snopes’ writers verify information and craft their stories for public consumption? We’ve collected some posts that help explain how we do what we do. Happy reading and let us know what else you might be interested in knowing.
‘Remarks by President Biden at a Gun Violence Prevention Task Force Meeting’. The White House, 3 Feb. 2022, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2022/02/03/remarks-by-president-biden-at-a-gun-violence-prevention-task-force-meeting/.
Sigalos, MacKenzie. ‘You Can’t Sue Pfizer or Moderna If You Have Severe Covid Vaccine Side Effects. The Government Likely Won’t Compensate You for Damages Either’. CNBC, 17 Dec. 2020, https://www.cnbc.com/2020/12/16/covid-vaccine-side-effects-compensation-lawsuit.html.
‘15 U.S. Code § 7903 – Definitions’. LII / Legal Information Institute, https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/15/7903. Accessed 4 Feb. 2022.
‘CNN’s Facts First Searchable Database’. CNN, https://www.cnn.com/factsfirst/politics/factcheck_22838c84-048d-49ed-b50b-30ba482fb524. Accessed 4 Feb. 2022.