Amid the debate over whether Congress and the White House should move to reform firearm laws, one congressman wants to give victims of gun violence their own weapon: The right to sue.
Representative Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), a former federal prosecutor, announced Monday that he plans to introduce a bill this session that would undo a 2005 law, which he says shields the gun industry from liability "when it acts with negligence and disregard for public safety."
Schiff's Access to Justice for Victims of Gun Violence Act would strip away immunity in state and federal court from civil liability for licensed manufacturers, distributors, and dealers of firearms, as well as their trade associations, in most negligence and products liability actions, Schiff said in a press release.
"Good gun companies don't need special protection from the law, and bad companies don’t deserve it," Schiff said in a statement. "Other industries across our country don't enjoy this protection under the law – from pharmaceutical firms to automotive manufacturers or even cigarette companies – and it's inexcusable for Congress to give the NRA and gun manufacturers a blank check."
Numerous cases around the nation have been dismissed on the basis of the 2005 law, called the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, even when the gun dealers acted in a fashion that would qualify as negligent if it involved any other product, Schiff said. Victims in these cases are denied the right to even discover evidence and then introduce evidence of negligence.
Reforms to gun laws have become a topic since the mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., that included 20 children and six adult staff members who died from gunshot wounds.
President Barack Obama, in a press conference Monday morning at the White House, said he would be meeting with Vice President Joe Biden this week for a detailed discussion on what sort of "sensible, common sense steps that can be taken to make sure that the kind of violence we saw at Newtown doesn't happen again."
Biden and a task force of top White House staff, including Attorney General Eric Holder Jr., held a series of meetings with firearm victim groups and gun rights groups last week. Obama said during the press conference that he would support stronger background checks for gun buyers, keeping magazine clips with high capacity out of the wrong hands, and potentially banning assault weapons.
Obama said he could accomplish some reforms through executive action alone.
"I'm confident that there are some steps that we can take that don't require legislation and that are within my authority as president," Obama said at the press conference. "And where you get a step that has the opportunity to reduce the possibility of gun violence, then I want to go ahead and take it."