Measure sponsored by Sen. Pedersen ensures firearms industry faces consequences for irresponsible practices
OLYMPIA — A bill to ensure that gun manufacturers and dealers — like other purveyors of dangerous goods — must take reasonable steps to prevent their products from getting into the hands of dangerous individuals passed the state Senate today by a 28-21 vote.
Senate Bill 5078, sponsored by Sen. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, is jointly requested by Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Gov. Jay Inslee. Rep. David Hackney, D-Tukwila, sponsored the companion bill in the House.
The Firearm Industry Responsibility & Gun Violence Victims’ Access to Justice Act ensures that firearms manufacturers and sellers will face liability if they fail to establish, implement and enforce reasonable controls in the manufacture, sale, distribution and marketing of firearms to keep them out of the hands of dangerous individuals.
Changes in federal law since 2005 have shielded the gun industry from liability and barred lawsuits like this one — even when their negligence is provable.
That law, the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), shields gun manufacturers and sellers from liability in some circumstances. However, Congress invited states to regulate firearm sales and marketing practices by exempting such state laws from PLCAA. SB 5078 creates such a law.
“This policy will ensure that the gun industry is treated like every other industry and faces real consequences for irresponsible conduct,” Ferguson said. “Today’s important vote is a significant step toward improving public safety in Washington.”
“This legislation provides accountability for a gun industry that has too often failed to take necessary precautions to prevent guns from getting into the wrong hands,” Gov. Inslee said. “Industry negligence costs lives — this bill lets the industry know we won’t abide this status quo any longer. Thank you to the bill’s sponsors and the Attorney General’s Office for advancing accountability in the gun industry.”
“We must ensure that firearms dealers and manufacturers are held accountable when they fail to keep weapons out of the hands of dangerous individuals,” Sen. Pedersen said. “Victims of gun violence in our state deserve access to justice. It is past time for the gun industry to face real consequences for irresponsible sales and marketing practices.”
Four other states — Delaware, New York, New Jersey, and California — have adopted similar legislation, and courts have upheld laws that fall under the PLCAA exception allowing for state regulation of firearm sales and marketing.
In the wake of the mass shooting at a Buffalo, N.Y., grocery store in May of last year, the city is suing several gun makers under New York’s law. The New York law, similar to SB 5078, has already survived a challenge in federal court.
Washington’s Attorney General serves the people and the state of Washington. As the state’s largest law firm, the Attorney General’s Office provides legal representation to every state agency, board, and commission in Washington. Additionally, the Office serves the people directly by enforcing consumer protection, civil rights, and environmental protection laws. The Office also prosecutes elder abuse, Medicaid fraud, and handles sexually violent predator cases in 38 of Washington’s 39 counties. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.
Brionna Aho, Communications Director, (360) 753-2727; Brionna.firstname.lastname@example.org
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