California leaders hope a new law, the Firearm Industry Responsibility Act (AB 1594) by Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), will help reduce gun violence and strengthen victims’ rights to seek justice and accountability in court. When it takes effect on July 1, this law will require firearm industry members to implement certain responsible business practices to help protect public safety in California.
The law will also provide a cause of action for victims of gun violence, as well as the state Attorney General and local government officials, to sue companies that manufacture and sell firearms and whose unlawful conduct causes harm. AB 1594 aims to push the gun industry to be more responsible in preventing the illegal sale and theft of firearms, promote a more level playing field for responsible businesses, and strengthen gun violence victims’ rights and legal tools.
“It’s gotten to a point where gun violence is now the leading cause of death among kids and teens in the United States. We can’t continue to live like this,” said Assemblymember Ting. “It’s my hope this law will compel members of the firearm industry to step up by preventing theft and illegal sales.”
The federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), enacted in 2005, shields gun producers and dealers from civil liability premised solely on unlawful acts committed by third parties. However, PLCAA preserves states’ authority to enact and enforce standards of responsible business conduct and accountability for the firearm industry. PLCAA does not shield companies who fail to follow applicable federal and state gun laws and cause harm. Several states—including New York, New Jersey, Washington, and Delaware—have enacted legislation providing for civil liability for companies whose violations of the law result in public harm. AB 1594 seeks to achieve the same result in California.
“In California, we are leading efforts to ensure victims of gun violence have equal access to justice in our courts and to protect our communities from dangerous misconduct by the corporate firearms industry,” said Attorney General Rob Bonta. “As Assembly Bill 1594 goes into effect July 1, Californians now have the clear power and ability to hold the gun industry accountable when irresponsible industry members violate the law and cause harm and death. In California, we refuse to settle for thoughts and prayers alone, as innocent lives are lost. Today, we have to deliver on the promise to implement urgent and bold action to address gun violence. There is much work to be done, but California will continue to enact commonsense measures that save lives and protect our communities.”
Some of the gun industry’s responsibilities—including conducting rigorous background checks, preventing straw purchases, selling safety devices with each firearm, and not manufacturing or selling certain assault weapon configurations and accessories—are already spelled out in California statutes. AB 1594 seeks to ensure that companies follow these laws or risk civil liability when their products cause public harm.
“For decades, a very small number of gun industry actors have largely enabled the gun violence epidemic with predatory practices and negligent disregard for the safety of our communities, in efforts to put profits over people. It is long past time for these bad actors to reckon with the damage and destruction they’ve inflicted in the state of California. Brady is proud to have worked alongside Assemblymember Ting and Attorney General Bonta to co-sponsor this critical legislation that will ensure this recklessness is reigned in,” said Kris Brown, President of Brady.
The Sandy Hook families have shown it is possible to successfully hold a gun company liable when its conduct causes harm. They sued Remington, claiming the manufacturer’s marketing of the AR-15-style rifle deliberately appealed to troubled men like the shooter, thereby violating Connecticut consumer law. The lawsuit resulted in a settlement last year.
AB 1594 is the latest gun safety bill Ting has championed. His legislative record on this issue includes the 2019 expansion of California’s Gun Violence Restraining Orders (AB 61) and the 2013 requirement that a safety device be sold with every firearm (AB 231).