State Watch

Newsom signs bill allowing gun makers to be sued for negligence

Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli
California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks at the California Association of Realtors Legislative Day in Sacramento on April 27, 2022.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Tuesday signed into law a bill allowing victims of gun violence and others to sue firearm manufacturers.

The Firearm Industry Responsibility Act, which wholly takes effect in July 2023, allows individuals, local governments and the California attorney general to sue gun manufacturers if their firearms are used irresponsibly or have caused harm.

In a video statement on Tuesday, Newsom said that “nearly every industry is held to account when their products cause harm or injury.”

“All except one: the gun industry,” the governor said. “Today, California is going to change that. They can no longer hide from the mass destruction that they have caused.”

Gun manufacturers are typically shielded from civil lawsuits under the 2005 federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, but they can still be held liable for negligence or breach of contract. They are also not the only industry with shield laws, with the pharmaceutical industry also having some protections under federal law.

California’s new Firearm Industry Responsibility Act works within an exemption of the 2005 federal law by allowing lawsuits to proceed if gun makers violate state laws related to the sale and marketing of firearms, according to Newsom’s office.

California’s new law follows a spate of deadly mass shootings in the U.S. this year, including in May when a gunman shot up a church in Laguna Woods, Calif., killing one person before citizens detained him and hogtied him to a chair.

The California chapters of advocacy organizations Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action applauded the new law as a step toward reducing gun violence, which they said kills more than 3,000 Californians a year.

“Gun manufacturers that have helped fuel the gun violence epidemic in this country for too long have gone without being held accountable for their reckless and dangerous actions,” said Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action, in a Tuesday statement. “California is helping turn the tide and bring real accountability.”

But the news comes after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a New York law that made it more difficult to conceal and carry a handgun outside the home, expanding the Second Amendment’s constitutional right to bear arms. The Firearm Industry Responsibility Act is likely to be challenged in court and could be ruled unconstitutional after the Supreme Court ruling.

Newsom, who is flirting with a potential 2024 White House bid, has continued to take action against gun violence. He also signed into law this month a measure prohibiting the marketing of firearms to minors and another statute expanding gun violence prevention grants.

The governor is expected to sign other gun control measures into law this summer, including one that allows private citizens to sue gun manufacturers and dealers for at least $10,000 if a firearm has caused harm or injury.

That bill is modeled after a Texas law passed last year, which circumvented then-existing precedent Roe v. Wade to deputize individuals to sue those who provide or aid an abortion.

Mike Gipson, a state Democrat who sponsored the Firearm Industry Responsibility Act, said California will “not turn a blind eye to the gun industry’s direct responsibility for the killing machines they let flood our streets and murder our loved ones.”

“Other industries and their products, even non-lethal, are held to this standard of accountability,” Gipson said in a statement on Tuesday. “Today, we stand together against the naysayers to create the type of parity that will save lives, setting a standard for others in the nation to follow.”

Tags California Gavin Newsom Gavin Newsom Gun amnufacturers Negligence
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