Newsom backs law for residents to sue gun makers, says challengers will be 'crushed'

Proposed legislation includes a new law shaped after Texas’ abortion law that would allow citizens to go after gun manufacturers.
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Gavin Newsom
Gavin Newsom
Getty Images

California politicians highlighted several bills on Friday that aim to address gun violence, including a new law shaped after Texas’ abortion law that would allow citizens to go after gun manufacturers.

Several lawmakers were joined by Gov. Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Rob Bonta to boost a batch of recently introduced gun bills Friday, at the Delmar Fairgrounds in San Diego. The package includes two bills that would allow residents to seek legal action against the gun industry.

Newsom backed a new bill, which will be filed by Senator Robert Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, allowing residents to sue anyone who manufactures, distributes, transports or imports into California, or sells what are designated assault weapons, .50 BMG rifles, ghost guns or ghost gun kits.

The push comes after Newsom called for legislation in December modeled after Texas’ law that limits abortion by allowing citizens to sue abortion providers.

“The Supreme Court of the United States opened up a door wide open,” Newsom said Friday. “We’re using their rules – those that they seemingly support coming out of the extreme anti-abortion legislation that came out of Texas.

“If Texas can use a law to ban a woman's right to choose and to put her health at risk, we will use that same law to save lives and improve the health and safety of the people in the state of California.”

The package of bills also includes a law introduced in January that would allow victims of gun violence and their families to sue gun makers and distributors for harm caused by their products.

Assembly Bill 1594, introduced by Assemblymembers Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), Mike Gipson (D-Carson) and Christopher Ward (D-San Diego) would allow members of the public and the attorney general to present civil suits against a manufacturer who fails to take precautions in marketing and distributing their products to keep them from being used unlawfully.

In 2005, the federal government passed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which protects gun manufacturers from being liable for crimes committed with their products. The law contains an exception that allows citizens to bring forth civil suits against a gun manufacturer or distributor who "knowingly violates a state law regulating the sale or marketing of the product" and if that violation was the direct cause of harm, according to the attorney general's office.

AB 1594 uses this exception in the federal statute to create a way for victims and their families to pursue legal action against gun manufacturers.

“This [bill] will rebalance the playing field and ensure that victims have as many paths to their day in court as they would for any other product,” Attorney General Rob Bonta said Friday.

“You can’t bring back the victims of gun violence we’ve lost, but we can ensure that their families have a path to justice,” Bonta added.

Newsom also highlighted two other bills Friday that aim to increase accountability in the firearms industry. Assembly Bill 1621 was introduced by Assemblymember Mike Gipson (D-Carson) in January to crack down on ghost guns in California, and Assembly Bill 2571 by Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D-Orinda) would restrict certain categories of weapons from being marketed to minors.

When asked if he has concerns about the gun industry bringing forth a ballot initiative to overturn these laws, Newsom responded “bring it on.”

“People of California have no patience for their promotions,” Newsom said. “It will get crushed – if they do it, they will be crushed. The public has no patience for these purveyors of violence and death.”