On July 4th, 2022, seven people were murdered, 48 people were injured, and a two-year old boy was orphaned in Highland Park, Illinois.
Our children are dying in their neighborhoods and schools with unprecedented and unacceptable regularity. In 2020, guns surpassed traffic fatalities as the leading cause of death for children in the U.S. In 2023 alone, there were 58 unintentional shootings by children.
Gun manufacturers take advantage of special legal immunity at the federal level to create marketing campaigns normalizing and glorifying a culture of gun violence. In the pursuit of profit, they spend millions on advertising that contributes to horrific acts of violence in communities throughout this state and this nation.
Firearms dealing is big business. Every year, the gun industry rakes in approximately $9B while gun violence kills nearly 40,000 and wounds twice as many. The gun industry has avoided the kind of accountability that has created safer, more responsible practices in other industries like automobiles, tobacco and pharmaceutical industries. Why?
Under the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCCA), the United States Congress expressly granted broad civil liability immunity to the gun industry with a few narrow exceptions.
Gun manufacturers are the only industry that enjoy this type of immunity under federal law. They can legally market an insurrection to white supremacist groups like the Proud Boys and pink assault weapons to children too young to own one. They can peddle the kind of fear and division that leads to gun violence and market weapons for offensive, military-style actions. Still, they cannot be sued under federal law.
One of the narrow exceptions to the immunity that gun manufacturers enjoy involves the violation of a predicate state statute applicable to the sale or marketing of the product.
That’s why I have worked for months with the House Firearm Safety and Reform Working Group, members of the Illinois Senate and Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul to craft HB218. This legislation is designed to hold gun manufacturers accountable and ensure families devastated by gun violence have a path to justice in Illinois civil court.
This is an action that must be taken at the state level. The exemptions expressly granted by federal law are only meaningful if we have a state law like HB218 in place.
The scourge of gun violence in our communities is born from a myriad of causes and to effectively address it, we must approach it from many different angles. HB218 is an important step down the path toward safer communities.
You can monitor progress of HB218 on the General Assembly’s website HERE.
Representative Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz