Mother of All Gun Laws


House Judiciary Committee voted to advance Congressman Adam Schiff’s (D-Burbank) Equal Access to Justice for Victims of Gun Violence Act, clearing the way for a vote on the House floor. Along with yesterday’s markup of the Assault Weapons Ban of 2021, this represents one of the most significant congressional acts in a decade on two of gun safety advocates’ top legislative priorities.

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Equal Access To Jutsice of Gun Violence Act

The House Judiciary Committee has taken a decisive step forward by endorsing Congressman Adam Schiff’s (D-Burbank) Equal Access to Justice for Victims of Gun Violence Act, paving the way for a pivotal vote on the House floor. In tandem with the markup of the Assault Weapons Ban of 2021 conducted yesterday, this marks a watershed moment in congressional action on two paramount concerns of gun safety proponents over the past decade.

Schiff’s Equal Access to Justice for Victims of Gun Violence Act, co-sponsored by Reps. Dwight Evans (D-Pa.) and Jason Crow (D-Colo.) among a coalition of 70 other House members, seeks to nullify the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. This legislation aims to ensure that the gun industry, encompassing manufacturers, sellers, and advocacy groups, does not enjoy immunity from legal liability when exhibiting negligence and disregard for public safety. By permitting civil cases to proceed against negligent parties in both state and federal courts, akin to any other product-related litigation, the bill endeavors to afford victims of gun violence and their families the opportunity for legal redress. Moreover, it endeavors to encourage responsible business conduct aimed at curbing gun-related injuries and fatalities.

“In 2020, for the first time ever, firearms ranked as the primary cause of death among young Americans. Congress previously conferred blanket immunity upon the gun industry, absolving it of any liability, even in instances where negligence led to loss of life. This has left manufacturers and dealers devoid of any impetus to adopt prudent business practices, while leaving victims and their families without legal recourse,” remarked Schiff. “For nearly two decades, the gun lobby has relished this unique status. However, we are now presented with an opportunity to terminate it, an opportunity we must seize. I eagerly anticipate the consideration of my bill, alongside the Assault Weapons Ban of 2021, and I urge my colleagues to endorse both measures so that we may safeguard lives.”


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Evans echoed Schiff’s sentiments, stating, “As an advocate of this concept both in Pennsylvania’s legislature and now in Congress, I take pride in being an original co-sponsor of Chairman Schiff’s bill, which seeks to reinstate this fundamental right of victims and survivors. Countless American lives could be spared if we held these corporations accountable for illicit sales or defective firearms. State attorneys general successfully held Big Tobacco accountable in the 1990s, and they should possess the means to hold gun manufacturers liable in the 21st century, considering that thousands of lives hang in the balance. This legislation would serve as an additional instrument in our arsenal to shield our citizens from gun violence.”

Crow reiterated the urgency of the issue, emphasizing, “The scourge of gun violence is claiming the lives of our youth and families. Unlike other sectors, such as Big Pharma or Big Tobacco, where the public can hold bad actors accountable for negligence through legal recourse, PLCAA shields gun manufacturers and sellers from liability. The bill to repeal PLCAA marks another crucial step toward loosening the stranglehold the gun lobby maintains over our lives. I am grateful to sustain this long-overdue momentum as we fortify the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act with further sensible reforms.”

Enacted in 2005 under a Republican-controlled Congress, PLCAA extends immunity to gun manufacturers, distributors, and retailers, shielding them from most negligence and product liability lawsuits in both state and federal jurisdictions. Despite the lethal nature of firearms, the firearm industry benefits from a unique safeguard against civil liability. Consequently, gun manufacturers and sellers bear a diminished responsibility to exercise reasonable care for public safety. Furthermore, it enables gun vendors to turn a blind eye to straw purchasers or traffickers who may procure hundreds of firearms and distribute them without undergoing background checks.

Schiff initially introduced legislation to revoke PLCAA in 2013 and reiterated this effort most recently in April 2021. President Biden underscored the imperative of repealing this liability shield as a focal point of his comprehensive strategy to mitigate gun-related crime during his March State of the Union address. He also urged Congress to promptly pass Schiff’s bill.

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