H.R. 332: Equal Access to Justice for Victims of Gun Violence Act

113th Congress, 2013–2015. Text as of Jan 22, 2013 (Introduced).

Status & Summary | PDF | Source: GPO and Cato Institute Deepbills

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113th CONGRESS

1st Session

H. R. 332

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

January 22, 2013

(for himself, Mr. Van Hollen, Mr. Meeks, Mr. Cicilline, Mr. Cartwright, Mr. Honda, Mr. Ellison, Mr. Moran, Ms. Slaughter, Mr. McGovern, Ms. Norton, and Mr. Serrano) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary

A BILL

To provide victims of gun violence access to the same civil remedies as are available to those injured through other means.

1.

Short title

This Act may be cited as the Equal Access to Justice for Victims of Gun Violence Act .

2.

Findings and purposes

(a)

Findings

The Congress finds as follows:

(1)

The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (in this subsection referred to as the PLCAA) was enacted with the express purpose of prohibiting causes of action against manufacturers, distributors, dealers, and importers of firearms or ammunition products, and their trade associations, for the harm solely caused by the criminal or unlawful misuse of firearm products or ammunition products by others when the product functioned as designed and intended..

(2)

The intent of the PLCAA was to bar a narrow category of lawsuits holding gun industry entities liable for damages solely on the basis of selling a product that was used in crime.

(3)

The chief sponsor of PLCAA stated during floor debate, This legislation will not bar the courthouse doors to victims who have been harmed by the negligence or misdeeds of anyone in the gun industry. … If manufacturers or dealers break the law or commit negligence, they are still liable..

(4)

It was not the intent of the Congress in the PLCAA to protect gun or ammunition manufacturers or sellers who failed to exercise reasonable care for health and safety in the design, marketing, and sale of their products.

(5)

Federal and State courts have read the PLCAA contrary to its intent, and dismissed civil lawsuits based on negligence, product defect, and other causes of action that are well established in statute and common law principles.

(6)

This special protection from civil liability enjoyed by the firearm industry is not only contrary to the congressional intent of the PLCAA, but also contrary to public safety, and unique among industries in the United States.

(7)

As Congress intended in the PLCAA, the firearm industry should not be held liable solely because a product they made or sold was used in crime, if those companies did not engage in negligent or otherwise tortious conduct. However, as Congress also intended in the PLCAA, State or Federal courts should not be barred from applying State common or statutory law to impose liability on industry participants who, through their negligent conduct or defective product, cause an injury in which unlawful activity was also a cause.

(8)

As most firearms dealers are responsible businesspeople who do not engage in negligent sales practices, 86 percent of firearms dealers sell no guns that are subsequently used in crimes, and 1.2 percent of firearms dealers sell 57 percent of crime guns, the overwhelming majority of dealers need no special protection from liability for damages resulting from the criminal use of guns.

(9)

Allowing victims of gun violence to pursue civil actions in State and Federal courts against the firearm industry on the basis of negligent behavior serves the interests of justice and fosters the adoption of responsible business practices likely to reduce the incidence of firearm deaths.

(10)

The Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens are not infringed by allowing State and Federal courts to impose generally applicable principles of civil justice law to negligent industry participants.

(b)

Purposes

The purposes of this Act are as follows:

(1)

To ensure that those injured by firearms have access to the same civil remedies as those injured by any other product and are not restricted from bringing suits based on statutes and common law theories of liability in State and Federal court.

(2)

To allow plaintiffs to discover and introduce evidence, including gun trace evidence, into State and Federal courts where appropriate.

3.

Equal access to civil remedies for victims of gun violence

(a)

In general

An action against a manufacturer, seller, or trade association for damages or relief resulting from an alleged defect or alleged negligence with respect to a product, or conduct that would be actionable under State common or statutory law in the absence of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, shall not be dismissed by a court on the basis that the action is for damages resulting from, or for relief from, the criminal, unlawful, or volitional use of a qualified product.

(b)

Definitions

In subsection (a), the terms manufacturer, seller, trade association, and qualified product shall have the meanings given the terms in section 4 of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.

(c)

Applicability

Subsection (a) shall apply to actions brought before, on, or after the date of the enactment of this Act.

4.

Discoverability and admissibility of gun trace information in civil proceedings

The contents of the Firearms Trace System database maintained by the National Trace Center of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives shall not be immune from legal process, shall be subject to subpoena or other discovery, shall be admissible as evidence, and may be used, relied on, or disclosed in any manner, and testimony or other evidence may be permitted based on the data, on the same basis as other information, in a civil action in any State (including the District of Columbia) or Federal court or in an administrative proceeding.