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    Holding the Gun Industry Accountable

    By Assemblymember Phil Ting–

    It’s heartbreaking to hear stories from mothers like Loren Lieb, who tried to sue the gun industry for a 1999 Southern California day care shooting that wounded five people, including her young son. Her child survived, but the experience left him with lifelong trauma and she sued gun manufacturers to hold them accountable. Her civil lawsuit did not gain traction because of the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which gives near immunity to firearms manufacturers and dealers.

    Ms. Lieb is now joining me to make sure my bill, AB 1594, passes so we can help make our communities safer. It’s the first proposal I introduced this year, allowing public citizens like you, as well as state and local governments, to sue the gun industry for the harm their products cause.

    It’s unfair that almost every industry in the United States can be held liable for what their products do, yet the powerful gun industry succeeded in getting an exemption. There’s no incentive for them to ensure safe and legal gun sales if they’re virtually untouchable.

    But I believe we have legal ground when those responsible for the manufacturing, sale, distribution, and marketing of firearms are creating a public nuisance—defined as contributing to conditions that endanger the health or safety of others or engaging in unfair business practices.

    My hope is the threat of civil litigation will compel the makers and sellers of firearms to take every step possible to follow our state’s comprehensive firearms laws aimed at preventing illegal sales and theft. That includes:

    • meeting the standards set for all guns manufactured or sold in California;
    • requiring the sale of approved firearm safety devices or a safe with all gun purchases;
    • conducting rigorous background checks and testing of all gun buyers;
    • banning the sale or manufacturing of assault weapons and parts to make weapons;
    • maintaining meticulous sales records;
    • and implementing greater safeguards against straw purchases and theft. (Editor’s Note: a “straw purchase” refers to buying a gun for someone who is prohibited by law from possessing one or for someone who does not want his or her name associated with the transaction.)

    AB 1594 builds on my record on gun safety. My previous legislation made gun owners criminally liable for leaving a weapon where a child can easily access it. I also expanded our state’s red flag law, adding school administrators, employers, and co-workers to the list of people who access a court process to get a Gun Violence Restraining Order (GVRO) to help prevent shootings at schools and work. If approved by a judge, GVROs temporarily takes away someone’s firearm if they pose a danger to themselves or others. Prior to my 2020 law, only law enforcement and family could file for one.

    Let’s work toward adding AB 1594 to this list. Ms. Lieb has said she personally knows my proposal will help keep Californians safe and believes holding irresponsible and negligent gun industry actors accountable for their role in facilitating gun violence is a common sense way of preventing gun violence.

    Phil Ting represents the 19th Assembly District, which includes the Westside of San Francisco along with the communities of Broadmoor, Colma, and Daly City.

    Published on January 27, 2022