U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-California), says he plans to introduce a bill that will largely repeal parts of a 2005 law shielding licensed gun makers, distributors and dealers from lawsuits filed against them by victims of gun violence.
Rep. Schiff's proposed Access to Justice for Victims of Gun Violence Act would remove the immunity from federal and state civil lawsuits currently granted to licensed gun makers, dealers, distributors and trade association granted to them in the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA).
The PLCAA, with a few specific exceptions, protects manufacturers or sellers of firearms, ammunition or firearm components from being sued for damages resulting from the criminal or unlawful misuse of a firearm.
According to Rep. Schiff, his bill would allow lawsuits against the firearm industry in cases "when it acts with negligence and disregard for public safety."
"Good gun companies don't need special protection from the law, and bad companies don't deserve it," Schiff said in a press release. "Against all logic, makers and sellers of some of the most deadly products, firearms, have the lowest obligations to act with reasonable care for the safety of the public."
Schiff also stated that the immunity from civil liability granted to the firearms industry by the PLACC enabled gun sellers to "turn a blind eye" to so-called "straw man" gun traffickers who purchase hundreds of guns only with the intent of selling them privately to others with no Brady Act background check.
"A background check is only as effective as it is comprehensive and if gun dealers can sell to straw purchasers with impunity, this represents another gaping loophole," noted Rep. Schiff. "As most gun companies are responsible businesspeople, this immunity only protects the worst actors in the industry."
Part of President Obama's plan to prevent gun violence announced on January 16 included a call for Congress to enact a law requiring universal background checks for all guns sales and "swaps," including those made at gun sales and between private individuals.
"If you want to buy a gun -- whether it's from a licensed dealer or a private seller -- you should at least have to show you are not a felon or somebody legally prohibited from buying one," stated President Obama, noting that as many as 40% of all gun purchases are currently conducted without a background check.