Dems push bill to let gun violence victims sue gun-makers

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Gun manufacturers could be sued by victims of gun violence under new legislation from Democrats.

The Equal Access to Justice for Victims of Gun Violence Act would roll back long-standing protections enjoyed by the gun industry that shields it from many lawsuits. 

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The bill would make firearms manufacturers and dealers liable for harm caused by the weapons they sell. The legislation is being circulated on Capitol Hill and could be released later this month, though it is not likely to pass in the Republican-controlled Congress.

“Congress passed a unique form of immunity for only one industry — and that is the gun industry,” Rep. Adam SchiffAdam SchiffWH tried to stop Intel Dems' statement on Russian hacking: report Week ahead: Election hacks, Yahoo breach in the spotlight Overnight Tech: Pressure builds ahead of TV box vote | Intel Dems warn about Russian election hacks | Spending bill doesn't include internet measure MORE (D-Calif.) told The Hill in an interview.

“If you’re a carmaker and your airbags kill someone, you’re potentially liable,” continued Schiff, one of the lawmakers behind the gun control bill. “If you’re a pharmaceutical company and sell faulty drugs, you can be held liable. If you’re a liquor store and sell alcohol to minors, you can be held liable."

“Why should it be any different for gun manufacturers?” he asked.

Congress approved the controversial Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act in 2005. It is intended to protect the gun industry from frivolous lawsuits.

The new bill would repeal these protections. Schiff is teaming up with Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) to build support for the legislation on Capitol Hill. He recently sent a Dear Colleague letter calling for an end to “immunity” for the gun industry.

The National Rifle Association did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the effort.

Democrats say the bill targets irresponsible gun dealers who sell firearms to "straw purchasers," which act as intermediaries between dealers and criminals. 

Straw purchasers often buy hundreds of guns from a dealer or manufacturer and then sell them on the black market to people who might not pass the required background checks.

Gun manufacturers and dealers who sell to suspected straw purchasers could be dragged into court under the legislation.

“There are straw purchasers who will buy dozens of the same gun,” Schiff explained. “It’s quite clear they’re not buying those guns for personal use. Who needs that many of the same gun?

"If they’re no longer immune, they’ll be more careful who they sell to,” he added.