Bill repeals existing law closing the courthouse door to families of gun violence victims seeking justice
June 11, 2019— Today, Giffords, the gun violence prevention organization led by former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, praised the introduction of the Equal Access to Justice for Victims of Gun Violence Act by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA). The legislation repeals the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), a law passed in 2005 that provides unprecedented immunity from civil liability to gun dealers, manufacturers, and trade associations.
“It’s time for Congress to stand with the survivors of gun violence,” said Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. “For too long, gun lobbyists had the final say in Washington, D.C., and that meant Americans who had lived through the unthinkable– who simply wanted justice for loved ones they would never see again– could never get it. The gun lobby convinced politicians that an entire industry deserved to operate without fear of ever being held responsible in a courtroom. Today, we stand up and fight again to restore the fundamentally American principle that no industry, including the gun industry, is above the law. I’m grateful to Senator Blumenthal and Representative Schiff for continuing this push for justice for those who deserve it most.”
While the possibility of civil litigation typically holds industries in check, providing an incentive to make products safer, PLCAA provides the gun industry unusual immunity held by no other. Lawsuits against the tobacco industry in the 1990s forced its companies to adopt new ways to market products to reduce youth smoking, while those against automobile manufacturers led that industry to adopt stronger safety standards. After a series of lawsuits began to hold gun businesses liable for reckless practices, the gun lobby convinced Congress to pass and President Bush to sign the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act in 2005.
In many cases, gun deaths and injuries could have been avoided if the gun industry acted more responsibly. Yet, PLCAA prevents victims and their families from raising these issues in court. This law’s broad language presents a serious obstacle to victims in cases where a gun dealer’s negligent business practices have put guns in the hands of gun traffickers and other criminals. PLCAA’s narrowly worded exceptions do not apply in many cases where a gun business has acted with reckless disregard for public safety, meaning that victims are shut out from seeking justice.
In addition to Senator Blumenthal and Representative Schiff, the Equal Access to Justice for Victims of Gun Violence Act is also sponsored by Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Representatives Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-FL), Jason Crow (D-CO), and Dwight Evans (D-PA).
- Fact Sheet: Equal Access to Justice for Victims of Gun Violence Act
- Giffords Law Center: Gun Industry Immunity