By COLE LAUTERBACH
THE CENTER SQUARE REGIONAL EDITOR
(The Center Square) — California Democrats have introduced legislation that would allow private lawsuits against firearms manufacturers for gun violence perpetrated with their product, mirroring what Texans are empowered to do with abortion providers.
Assemblymembers Phil Ting, D-San Francisco; Chris Ward, D-San Diego, and Mike A. Gipson, D-Carson, announced Tuesday they’ve filed Assembly Bill 1594. The bill amends current statute to allow private right of action against domestic gun manufacturers based on public nuisance laws.
“A gun industry member shall have created or maintained a public nuisance, as defined in Section 3480, if their failure to follow federal, state, or local law caused injury or death or if the gun industry member engaged in unfair business practices,” the bill states.
Lawmakers in New York State passed similar legislation last summer. After the bill was signed by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the National Shooting Sports Foundation filed a legal challenge, tying the law up in court before it could take effect. The goal of the bills is to get around a federal protection unique to the industry.
The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act of 2005 gives firearms industry manufacturers immunity from civil liability law. However, it contains a clause that states like California and New York aim to use in allowing such legal action.
Assemblymember Ting said in a release that the firearms industry should be held to the same legal standard as other companies.
“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,” he said. “Financial repercussions may finally push them to be more responsible by improving their practices and adhering to California’s strict gun laws.”
Mr. Ting said gun violence in his state amounts to a “public nuisance,” thus creating an impetus for getting around PLCAA.
Gov. Gavin Newsom claims the U.S. Supreme Court’s upholding of a controversial Texas law allowing private lawsuits against doctors or others that assist in performing abortions validates proposals like Assemblymember Ting’s and the New York law.
Gov. Newsom said on Dec. 12 that he wanted to see such legislation after the Texas law was upheld.
“If (Texas) can ban abortion and endanger lives, (California) can ban deadly weapons of war and save lives,” Gov. Newsom tweeted.
The announcement prompted a response from the Firearms Policy Coalition, a 2nd Amendment rights nonprofit.
“Just as FPC secured a trial judgment against the State of California’s unconstitutional ban on so-called ‘assault weapons’ in our Miller v. Bonta case before Judge Roger T. Benitez, we are prepared to litigate these important issues in state courts and then up to the U.S. Supreme Court,” the Sacramento-based group said. “If Gavin Newsom wants to play a game of constitutional chicken, we will prevail.”
The lawmakers hope to have bill language finalized before the end of the month with hearings likely to start in the spring. The California Attorney General’s office and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence are co-sponsors of the bill.