Crow Leads Charge to Introduce Legislation to Give Gun Victims Their Day in Court

June 11, 2019
Press Release

Legislation Would Repeal Liability Shield Protecting Gun Sellers and Manufacturers

Parents of Aurora Theater Shooting Victim Went Bankrupt After Trying to Sue the Gun Dealer

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today Rep. Jason Crow (D-CO) alongside bill sponsors Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) reintroduced the Equal Access to Justice for Victims of Gun Violence Act to ensure that the gun industry -- including manufacturers, sellers and interest groups -- is not shielded from liability when it acts with negligence and disregard for public safety. The bill would repeal the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), effectively giving victims of gun violence and their families their day in court.

 

In 2005, Congress passed PLCAA, providing immunity for gun manufacturers, distributors, and dealers that protects them from most negligence and product liability actions in both state and federal court on the grounds that it would protect the gun industry from frivolous lawsuits. In reality, numerous cases around the nation have been dismissed on the basis of PLCAA, meaning the firearm industry enjoys a special shield from civil liability despite the lethal capacity of their products. As a result, gun makers and sellers have a lesser obligation to act with reasonable care for the safety of the public. It also means that gun sellers can turn a blind eye to straw purchasers or traffickers who may buy hundreds of weapons and traffic them to others without background checks.

 

The Equal Access to Justice for Victims of Gun Violence Act allows civil cases to go forward against irresponsible bad actors. Letting courts hear these cases would provide justice to victims and their families, while enabling courts to create incentives for responsible business practices through settlement agreements that would reduce injuries and deaths. Effectively, the gun industry would once again be subject to the same laws as every other industry, just as it was prior to 2005.

 

In Colorado, Sandy and Lonnie Phillips, the parents of Jessi Ghawi who was killed in the Aurora Theater shooting, went bankrupt in their attempt to sue Lucky Gunner, the ammunition dealer who sold $4,000 worth of weapons without a background check. After losing their lawsuit, the Phillips owed over $200,000 in legal fees to Lucky Gunner.

 

“Gun violence has become a public health crisis in our country, yet many of those responsible for it – namely, negligent gun sellers and manufacturers – are shielded from accountability. In any other industry – whether it be Big Pharma or Big Tobacco – the American people can hold bad actors accountable for negligent behavior by taking them to court,” said Rep. Crow. “Yet, thanks to PLCAA, gun manufacturers and sellers stand immune and the gun lobby has the green light to put private profit ahead of public safety. In my district, we saw families go bankrupt after the Aurora Theater shooting because they tried to hold those in power accountable. It’s time we created a level playing field so survivors can have their day in court.”

 

“No industry should be above the law, especially one that produces deadly weapons — and yet America’s gun industry enjoys special protection from lawsuits thanks to the millions of dollars they spent lobbying politicians,” said John Feinblatt, President of Everytown for Gun Safety.

 

“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.”

 

To read the one page background document on the Equal Access to Justice for Victims of Gun Violence Act, please click here. To read the legislation, please click here. To read the story about the Phillips family and their lawsuit against Lucky Gunner, please click here.