Biting the Bullet: Can the FDA Regulate Firearms?


The U.S. Meals and Drug Administration (FDA) regulatory authority over gadgets that “have an effect on the construction or operate of the physique” can be utilized to restrict the manufacture of firearms,  manufacturing,  in accordance with a forthcoming paper within the Connecticut Regulation Evaluation.

Lars Noah, a legislation professor on the College of Florida, argues that the FDA’s oversight energy over gadgets that may additionally inflict “unintended harms” presents an unconventional strategy to the epidemic of gun violence within the U.S.

Whereas the gadget regulation authority is primarily used for devices like hypodermic needles, syringes and automatic exterior defibrillators (AEDs), it offers a precedent for regulating probably dangerous merchandise.

Gun producers presently function with “far too little oversight at current,” the paper maintained.

Noah instructed its value mentioning the concept since gun violence is already thought of a public well being problem by many students and researchers.

Defining FDA “Units”

Presently, the FDA defines “gadgets as an instrument, equipment, or a element supposed to both diagnose, remedy and deal with — or “have an effect on the construction or any operate of the physique of man or different animal.”

Utilizing this definition, firearms and ammunition clearly are gadgets and equipment that may have an effect on the construction or operate of a physique due to its capability to trigger deliberate or unintended hurt, Noah wrote.

If regulated as a “gadget” by way of the FDA, this may imply that they’d have the power to impose a nationwide minimal age for buying, demand clearer storage directions, and introduce efficiency security requirements.

Noah famous that whereas some may contemplate it a stretch to incorporate firearms  on this definition, the FDA is used to common indoor tanning gear and sunlamps.

These skin-darkening gadgets clearly serve primarily a beauty function, however fall beneath the FDA’s  “gadget” authority as a result of it has the power to have an effect on the construction or operate of the physique whereas additionally being an instrument.

“Weapons and ammunition actually match inside FDA jurisdiction over ‘gadgets’ as a result of these merchandise unmistakably intend to have an effect on the construction or operate of the physique,” Noah concluded.

For different skeptics who Noah mentioned might argue that Congress ought to deal with this situation and never the FDA, Noah responds by saying that Congress had their likelihood — they usually “responded in a chaotic trend” with disjointed state regulation and differing buy guidelines.

Roadblocks and Alternatives

This might not be the primary time that the FDA’s regulatory energy has been invoked within the gun management debate.

Whereas testifying at a Senate subcommittee listening to targeted on regulating the chemical, mace, the Commissioner and Chief Counsel of the FDA  in 1969 mentioned the company wouldn’t look to control mace — or firearms for that matter — as it could be a “slippery slope” in “rulemaking.”

Due to the FDA’s previous stance on this, Noah concedes that pushing for “gadget” regulation is a protracted shot and an unconventional concept within the battle in opposition to weapons. Nevertheless, he mentioned it’s value pushing the envelope to get individuals discussing different prospects for tackling gun violence as a public well being menace, in the identical manner discussions about curbing tobacco use started.

“I don’t think about for a second that this can ever occur,” Noah wrote. “Then once more, crazier concepts have gotten traction, and the FDA’s expertise with tobacco merchandise amply demonstrates that one thing beforehand unthinkable and finally unsuccessful can nonetheless bear fruit.”

Lars Noah is a Chesterfield Smith Eminent Scholar and Professor of Regulation on the College of Florida Levin School of Regulation the place he teaches programs in Administrative Regulation, Medical Know-how, Public Well being Regulation, and Torts, amongst different topics.

The total forthcoming paper might be accessed here.  

Andrea Cipriano is a TCR employees author.