In an effort to ensure California’s comprehensive gun laws are followed, Assemblymembers Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), Chris Ward (D-San Diego) and Mike A. Gipson (D-Carson) are spearheading AB 1594 this year. The bill would empower local/state governments and Californians to sue manufacturers and sellers of firearms for the harm caused by their products. The threat of civil litigation aims to compel the gun industry to take every step possible to prevent illegal sales and theft to reduce gun violence.
“We must make our communities safer. Almost every industry in the United States can be held liable for what their products do, but the gun industry is not held to the same standard. Financial repercussions may finally push them to be more responsible by improving their practices and adhering to California’s strict gun laws,” said Assemblymember Ting.
Enacted in 2005, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) shields gun producers and dealers from civil liability when their products are used to commit crimes. There’s an exception to the federal statute, however, when those companies and sellers break state laws. Using those grounds, Ting believes those responsible for the manufacturing, sale, distribution and marketing of firearms can be held accountable under state law when such activities create a public nuisance – defined as contributing to conditions that endanger the health or safety of others or engaging in unfair business practices.
"Nearly forty thousand lives are lost to gun violence every year; that’s an average of 100 people shot and killed in the United States every day," said Assemblymember Ward. "Until the gun industry decides to play a larger role in reducing gun violence in our communities, it is vital that California takes action now to stem what has become a worsening public health crisis.”
“I will not rest until we put an end to senseless gun violence,” said Assemblymember Gipson. “Part of the solution is focused on how particular guns are manufactured and distributed in California. I am proud to team up with and look forward to working with my colleague, Assemblymember Ting, to pass tangible, commonsense legislation to protect our families from those who would do them harm.”
While still being crafted, AB 1594 will focus on the industry’s responsibilities already spelled out in California law, which include:
- Meeting the standards set for all guns manufactured or sold in California
- Requiring the sale of approved firearm safety devices or a safe with all guns purchases
- Conducting rigorous background checks and testing of all gun buyers
- Banning the sale or manufacturing of assault weapons and parts to make weapons
- Maintaining meticulous sales records
- And implementing greater safeguards against straw purchases and theft
“Ensuring that irresponsible and negligent gun industry actors are held accountable for its role in facilitating gun violence is a common-sense way of preventing gun violence. As someone whose own lawsuit against the gun industry was impacted by PLCAA, I know personally that this bill will keep all Californian’s safe. Brady thanks Assemblymember Ting for championing this important legislation on behalf of all Californians,” said Loren Lieb, Brady California Member and Board Chair of Women Against Gun Violence. She was also a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the gun industry.
Ting, Ward and Gipson hope to have final bill language ready this month with hearings likely to start in the Spring. AB 1594 is co-sponsored by the California Attorney General and the Brady Campaign.