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Democracy

Now, in California, you can sue a gun manufacturer if its products caused you harm

It's called taking responsibility.

guns california, gavin newsom, gun laws

California Governor Gavin Newsom signs law to hold gun manufacturers accountable.

The logic behind a new California law that allows people to sue gun manufacturers if they’ve been hurt—most likely shot—by their products makes a lot of sense. In America, you can sue a fast food joint if its burger has tainted meat that made you sick. You can also sue your employer if you are injured on the job.

There have even been instances where tobacco companies have been successfully sued for the deaths of smokers.

Why shouldn’t companies that make fortunes from selling and marketing instruments of death have to be responsible for the carnage created by their use? If you’re going to profit from guns you should also have to be responsible for the repercussions, especially when innocent people are hurt or killed.

A new bill signed into law by California Governor Gavin Newsom will allow people who’ve been harmed by guns to sue the manufacturer if it didn’t establish “reasonable controls” to keep them from those most likely to cause harm. These include people who are legally prohibited from owning a firearm or those who might hurt themselves or others.

Manufacturers can also face penalties if their guns are “abnormally dangerous” or sold in a way where they can be illegally converted.


“It’s well known that nearly every industry is held to account when their products cause harm or injury, except one: the gun industry,” Newsom said in a statement.

“California is going to change that. They can no longer hide from the mass destruction that they have caused. ... If you’ve been hurt or a family member is a victim of gun violence, you can now go to court and hold the makers of these deadly weapons accountable,” he said.

The bill could cause significant damage to the gun industry through expensive lawsuits. The Sandy Hook families successfully sued Remington in 2017 and won $73 million in damages. Insurance companies would also be less likely to protect gun companies from lawsuits knowing they have a much greater chance of being successfully sued.

The National Rifle Association claims the new law is “intentionally vague” and “can subject the industry to crippling lawsuits regardless of whether there is any actual violation of law, and therefore prevent law-abiding citizens from being able to access the firearms necessary to exercise a constitutional right.”

The new law is bound to be the subject of legal battles, but Assemblymember Phil Ting of San Francisco told Politico that similar challenges to a New York law lost their initial challenges in court.

The new law is another bold step against gun violence for the state of California, which already has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the country. While gun rights advocates may bristle at the state’s actions, research shows that these types of laws save lives. According to The New York Times, California’s firearm mortality rate is the country’s lowest at 8.5 gun deaths per 100,000 people in 2020, compared to the national average that year of 13.7 per 100,000.

People who live in California are also 25% less likely to die in a mass shooting. In the debate in America over whether we're safer with more guns or fewer firearms, California is making a compelling case for the latter.


This story first appeared on the author's Medium and is reprinted here with permission.

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