The Capitol / Photo by Chris O'Neil

A new piece of legislation in California will allow for victims of gun violence and local governments to sue gun makers.

This new legislation closely resembles a New York law that allows localities and individuals to sue gun makers over the shooting incidents involving their firearms.

As reported in The California Globe: 

Assembly Bill 1594, authored by Assemblymen Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), Chris Ward (D-San Diego) and Mike Gipson (D-Carson), closely follows a New York law in allowing victims of gun violence and governments to sue gun manufacturers or dealers for liability when firearms are used in incidents of shooting deaths or injuries. Specifically, AB 1594, also known as the Firearm Industry Responsibility Act, would require those in the firearm industry to enforce “reasonable controls” and take “reasonable precautions” to ensure that they are not sold or distributed to a downstream retailer or distributor who fails to establish or implement “reasonable controls”.

Those in the firearm industry would also, under the proposed law, be prohibited from manufacturing, marketing, importing, offering for wholesale, or offering for retail sale a firearm-related product that is likely to create a substantial and unreasonable risk of harm to public health and safety.

Most critically however, starting in July 2023, the bill would authorize those hurt by firearms, the Attorney General, and City and County Attorney Generals to sue those in the firearm industry if they violate any new laws listed in AB 1594 or break laws pertaining to unfair competition, false advertising, or unfair deceptive acts or practices. Under the bill, courts would also be authorized to determine if the firearm industry has engaged in the prohibited conduct to award various relief, including injunctive relief, damages, and attorney’s fees and costs.

The bill would follow Governor Gavin Newsom’s push to model a law on the recent Texas abortion law to allow private citizens to sue gun manufacturers. Despite Newsom’s idea clearly breaking federal law, AB 1594 would work within the loophole to avoid any federal problems. In turn, AB 1594 would bypass the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), which directly prohibits civil liability against gun manufacturers and others in the firearm industry.

This legislation will likely go to court and be overturned if it is passed. This legislation would violate the PLCAA as California Globe points out but there is an off chance this goes through and actually makes an impact. Legislation like this could hypothetically bankrupt a firearm maker, but that is why PLCAA protections are in place.

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