(The Center Square) – Californians will soon be able to sue gun manufacturers and distributors for harm caused by their products under a new law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom.
The law, Assembly Bill 1594, creates the “firearm standard of conduct,” which requires members of the firearm industry to “enforce reasonable controls” to prevent the sale of firearms to a downstream distributor that does not enforce the same controls. The bill authorizes the California attorney general, city or county attorneys and victims of gun violence to bring civil action against firearm industry members who violate the standard of conduct.
The bill, which takes effect July 1, 2023, is likely to face legal challenges from gun rights groups who say they are already preparing to push back on new gun laws in the state.
Newsom’s signature comes amidst a growing national divide over whether gun control laws are needed to curb gun violence in America. Just weeks ago, California legislative leaders and Newsom vowed to quickly advance a package of gun violence prevention legislation in the aftermath of a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, that left 19 children dead.
In a statement, Newsom said Tuesday that under this new law, “the gun industry can no longer hide from the devastating harm their products cause.”
“Our kids, families and communities deserve streets free of gun violence and gun makers must be held accountable for their role in this crisis,” Newsom said. “Nearly every industry is held liable when people are hurt or killed by their products – guns should be no different.”
Since Congress passed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act in 2005, gun makers and dealers have been shielded from lawsuits when crimes are committed with the firearms they sell. AB 1594, however, uses an exception in the federal law that allows for legal action against gun makers and sellers who violate state laws related to the marketing of firearms.
The bill faced opposition from the National Rifle Association and the California Rifle and Pistol Association as it made its way through the state Legislature and is likely to face challenges in the coming weeks from gun rights groups.
Sam Paredes, executive director of Gun Owners of California, told The Center Square that the nonprofit will join a coalition of Second Amendment advocates who plan to challenge the law in court. Paredes said the bill has the potential to bankrupt members of the firearm industry who will have to expend hefty resources to defend against lawsuits.
“These lawsuits are set up so that the mere fact that they are in the firearms business, they will be sued. Period,” Paredes said.
Assemblymember Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, and other Democratic lawmakers who authored the bill say the new law will hold the gun industry accountable and make communities safer.
“Our message is clear: 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, day in and day out,” the bill’s co-author, Assemblymember Mike Gipson, D-Carson, said in a statement.
In addition to AB 1594, Newsom also signed Assembly Bill 2551 into law Monday, which requires the state’s Department of Justice to notify local authorities when a “prohibited person” attempts to purchase a firearm.
In total, Newsom has signed four pieces of legislation related to firearms in recent weeks. At the end of last month, the governor signed two bills into law that target ghost guns and prohibit firearm marketing to minors.
The bill prohibiting firearm marketing to minors is currently facing a legal challenge from gun rights advocates and shooting sports associations.