Efforts to hold firearms manufacturers liable for gun violence could become a new battleground in the debate over gun control after a series of mass killings, the Hill reports. Democratic state legislatures have shown a renewed interest in broadening the industry’s liability with new laws while a settlement between a gun manufacturer and victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting could embolden other potential plaintiffs. After the Uvalde massacre, state legislators advanced a gun control package including a measure that would open up gun manufacturers to civil legal liability for certain marketing and design practices. Gov. Gavin Newsom vowed to push for a gun control law similar to the controversial Texas abortion restriction that allowed private individuals to sue healthcare providers who performed banned abortions.
The proposals are similar to a New York law enacted last year that opens manufacturers up to civil public nuisance lawsuits if they fail to implement reasonable safeguards against unlawful distribution or use of their firearms. Last Wednesday, the New York law survived an initial legal hurdle when a federal judge dismissed a gun industry lawsuit challenging its constitutionality. New York Attorney General Letitia James, who defended the law in federal court, responded to the ruling by inviting other states to follow suit. Still, potential hurdles remain for states seeking to create new areas of liability tailored specifically against gun manufacturers. Where the Sandy Hook case brought claims under Connecticut’s broader consumer protection laws, the New York statute and the proposals in California single out the firearms industry.