June 23, 2023

Duckworth, Durbin Help Introduce Bill to Repeal the Firearm Industry’s Legal Liability Shield

Legislation would give victims of gun violence their day in court & hold manufacturers accountable for negligence


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, joined U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and U.S. Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA)—along with 76 other members of Congress—in reintroducing the bicameral Equal Access to Justice for Victims of Gun Violence Act, legislation to ensure that victims of gun violence have their day in court and that negligent firearm companies and sellers are not shielded from liability when they disregard public safety. The bill would repeal the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), passed by Congress in 2005, which gives the firearm industry a unique and unjustifiable legal liability shield that protects firearm manufacturers from lawsuits. 

“With gun violence being the number one killer of children in America, we cannot sit idly by and continue to let the firearm industry off the hook for manufacturing and distributing weapons of war that are ripping apart families and terrorizing our communities,” said Senator Duckworth. “It's long past time we finally eliminate liability shields for the firearm industry so victims of gun violence can have their day in court and seek out whatever justice they can for their pain and loss after going through the unimaginable. I’m proud to help introduce this bill to do just that.”

“It’s absurd that the gun industry is shielded from the consequences of negligent behavior that would result in liability if this were any other product,” said Senator Durbin. “Gun dealers and manufacturers do not deserve special treatment, and certainly not at the expense of our communities amidst an epidemic of gun violence. By repealing this unjustifiable legal liability shield, this bill will allow victims of gun violence to seek justice and have their day in court. This bill sends a clear message: we must value our families, kids, and neighbors over the wishes of the NRA.”

“The gun industry’s legal immunity has given it a free pass to negligently manufacture and distribute weapons of war – often with devastating consequences for communities across the country,” said Senator Blumenthal. “Repealing PLCAA’s protective shield will hold manufacturers accountable for wrongdoing and allow victims, survivors, and families to seek justice. Those impacted by our gun violence epidemic deserve their day in court. Passing this measure and ending the industry’s sweetheart deal is long overdue.” 

“Gun violence continues to take the lives of ordinary Americans every day, because Washington refuses to hold the gun industry accountable. I’m reintroducing my bill to repeal the liability shield that wrongly protects negligent gun makers and dealers from lawsuits. We must not let gun manufacturers get away with reckless practices that have life or death consequences for our kids, our parents, and our neighbors,” said Congressman Schiff. 

When Congress passed PLCAA, its supporters argued that it was necessary to protect the firearm industry from frivolous lawsuits, and that victims of gun violence would not be shut out of the courts. In reality, numerous cases around the nation have been dismissed on the basis of PLCAA, even when the firearm dealers and manufacturers acted in a fashion that would qualify as negligent if it involved any other product. Victims in these cases were denied the right to even discover or introduce evidence. This legislation allows civil cases to go forward against irresponsible bad actors.

In 2005, the National Rifle Association (NRA) identified PLCAA as their “number one” legislative priority, and the NRA celebrated the passage calling it the “most significant piece of pro-gun legislation in twenty years.” Letting courts hear these cases would provide justice to victims and their families, while creating incentives for responsible business practices that would reduce injuries and deaths. Effectively, the firearm industry would once again be subject to the same laws as every other industry, just as it was prior to 2005.

The legislation is endorsed by Brady United Against Gun Violence, Giffords, Newtown Action Alliance, Everytown for Gun Safety, Guns Down America, Sandy Hook Promise Action Fund, and March for Our Lives.

Along with Duckworth, Durbin and Blumenthal, the legislation is cosponsored in the Senate by U.S. Senators Tom Carper (D-DE), Bob Casey (D-PA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), John Fetterman (D-PA), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Peter Welch (D-VT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Jack Reed (D-RI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Chris Coons (D-DE).

A copy of the bill text can be found here.