New California Bill Strives for Actionable Gun Reform

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The divide on gun regulation has plagued American politics for years, but with gun violence exponentially increasing over the last decade, more Americans want to see stricter regulations and greater consequences for reckless gun holders. Many wonder why federal –or at least state governments— haven’t taken action against this issue already.

On July 12, 2022, Governor Newsom signed a bill that allows individuals, local governments and even the California Attorney General to sue gun manufacturers and sellers for the irresponsible distribution and harmful actions any of their products have caused. Newsom argued that almost every industry is held accountable when a product of theirs causes harm and presents danger to consumers. The gun industry should not be any different. For years, gun lobbyists funded politicians who would shield them from any liability associated with gun violence. With this new bill, the gun industry won’t be able to hide much longer.

How can Californians sue?

The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act was passed by Congress in 2005 to protect gun manufacturers and dealers from civil suits that linked their guns to crimes. An exemption in the federal statute, however, states that these gun makers and distributors can be sued for violating state laws regarding the advertising and sale of firearms. Thus, Assembly Bill No. 1594 (AB 1594) seeks to hold manufacturers and sellers accountable for the “importing, offering for wholesale, or… for retail sale [of] a firearm-product that is abnormally dangerous and likely to create an unreasonable risk.” With this new bill, gun makers and sellers will be held accountable if their gun falls in the wrong hands. This might finally tip the scale and lead a movement for more controlled gun regulation in California.

How big of a step is this?

California is taking steps in the right direction, but this action is only supported at the state level. California was ranked as the safest US state in terms of gun safety, having strong gun regulation laws and a lower percentage of gun death rates than the national average. Stacked up against states like Texas, whose leading official’s only thought on mass shootings is that they could be worse, California seems to be holding up the gun regulation front up on its shoulders.

This is not to discount what California is doing. The state has introduced gun violence prevention programs and has provided funding to several cities and nonprofit organizations in their fight against gun violence. These efforts have cut California’s gun death rate in half. With AB 1594 taking effect on July 1, 2023, gun manufacturers and distributors will need to be more cautious in who they sell their guns to. AB 1594 brings California, and by association the US, one step closer to better gun regulation, a decrease in gun lobbying, and a safer community.

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