California Passes Bill
Making Gun Lawsuits Easier
California's Democratically controlled General Assembly Friday passed
a bill making it easier to sue gun makers.
Christine Hall, CNSNews.com
Monday, Aug. 26, 2002
The bill, sponsored by Assemblyman Paul Koretz, D-West Hollywood,
changes a 1983 law that explicitly exempted gun manufacturers from
liability in suits alleging willful or negligent acts or omissions
in the design, distribution and marketing of firearms and ammunition.
"This is a legal earthquake for the gun industry," said
Luis Tolley of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence united
with the Million Mom March, which sponsored the bills and organized
dozens of gun victims to lobby legislators.
"Gun manufacturers are facing judgment day," said Tolley.
"They will no longer be able to hide from the courts and escape
legal accountability when they engage in dangerous and irresponsible
conduct that hurts and kills people."
The Brady Campaign is hoping to replicate an Ohio Supreme Court
ruling in June that reinstated Cincinnati's lawsuit against the
industry and allowed the city to proceed with product liability,
negligence and public nuisance claims against fifteen gun manufacturers.
Similar suits are pending in twelve California cities and counties.
Proponents of the bill used a 2001 California Supreme Court decision
as a blueprint for re-writing state law.
In the 2001 ruling, the court said that, under the 1983 law, gun
maker Navegar, which produced the banned TEC-9 assault weapon, could
not be held responsible for criminal use of the weapon. Moreover,
said the court, the plaintiffs failed to show that Navegar's allegedly
inflammatory advertising was a legal cause of plaintiffs' injuries.
The case stemmed from a July 1, 1993 shooting in which Gian Luigi
Ferri killed eight people and wounded six - and then killed himself
-during a shooting rampage at a high-rise office building in San
The General Assembly bill mirrors a recently passed Senate bill.
It now heads to the desk of Gov. Gray Davis, who is running for
re-election. But, the governor has not taken a position on the bill.
Eugene Volokh, a legal scholar at the University of California,
predicts that the new law won't have the big impact that supporters
Even if gun manufacturers can be sued under the same rules as other
manufacturers, "gun manufacturers have had a long string of
victories in other courts, including, for instance, in the highest
state court of New York [the New York Court of Appeal])," he
"The Ohio decision ... is one notable exception to that long
string of victories, but on balance gun manufacturers have been
winning much more than losing - even without the benefit of special
statutes such as the one now in force in California," said
"If that statute is indeed repealed, chances are gun manufacturers
will still generally win ... except perhaps in some very unusual
circumstances," he said.