A Federal Judge for the District of Nevada issued an order on September 17th dismissing a class action lawsuit against Slide Fire Solutions, makers of the notorious bump-fire stock. Slide Fire had filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) (which governs personal jurisdiction) and 12(b)(6) (which covers failures to state a claim for which relief can be granted).
Now I know you are all at the edge of your seats hoping for an in depth discussion about the Court’s analysis of personal jurisdiction, but this isn’t law school and I want you to come back to the blog for future articles. If you are interested, you can read the Court’s analysis of that issue here (Pages 5-13). However, the part that most of the readers will find fascinating is the Court’s analysis of Slide Fire’s claim under 12(b)(6) which points to the Protection in Lawful Commerce of Arms Act (PLCAA) for a defense.
PLCAA was enacted by Congress upon finding that manufacturers and sellers of firearms “are not, and should not, be liable for the harm caused by those who criminally or unlawfully misuse firearm products . . . that function as designed and intended.” Ileto v. Glock, Inc., 565 F.3d 1126, 1135 (9th Cir. 2009) (quoting 15 U.S.C. § 7901(a)(5)). Simply put, the statute requires Courts to immediately dismiss “qualified civil liability actions“. The term encompasses a few different things, but for the purposes of this discussion will mean civil actions “brought by any person against a manufacturer or seller of a qualified product . . . for damages . . . or other relief, resulting from the criminal or unlawful misuse of a qualified product by the person or a third party…” Just as a quick aside, there are exemptions to this general rule, which you can find in the definition here.
Based on the definition above, the Court was left to wrestle with whether a bump-fire stock was a “qualified product“. In order to qualify, the bump-fire stock needed to be found to be a firearm or a component part. Of course, Congress did not define the term “component part” which meant that the Court had to give it meaning. Each party gave differing interpretations, Slide Fire arguing that it was a component part based on ATF’s guidebook and ATF’s determination letter, while the Plaintiff’s argued that they were accessories because “they are added after a consumer purchases a fully functional rifle, require post-purchase installation, and are advertised as a way to “enhance” or “overhaul” a rifle in Slide Fire’s promotional catalog”.
The Court ultimately sided with Slide Fire on its interpretation that a bump-fire stock was a “component part”. The Court found, and the parties did not dispute, that a stock was a component part of a rifle.
Thus, it follows that upon installation, the bump stock is a rifle’s operative stock and, therefore, becomes an integral part of a rifle.
As such, the Court determined that the bump-fire stocks were qualified products under PLCAA and therefor protected by the statute.
The Plaintiffs also argued that one of the exemptions was applicable because of “(1) Slide Fire’s alleged false entry on its application for a federal firearms license (“FFL”); and (2) Slide Fire’s misrepresentations to the ATF about bump stocks being intended for persons with limited mobility.” The Court declined to address the first allegation because it was not included in the complaint. In relation to the second allegation, the Court determined that “if a device’s marketability to those with disabilities was not a factor in the ATF’s finding, then it follows that Plaintiffs cannot show that Slide Fire’s misrepresentation proximately caused the injuries that are the subject of this case.” Simply put, the Court did not believe the Plaintiff’s presented enough evidence to invoke the exemption to PLCAA.
The Court gave the Plaintiffs twenty-one (21) days to amend their complaint, which means that this bumpy ride might not yet be over for Slide Fire.