Committees approve bills removing immunity for gun dealers

The Associated Press
Wednesday May 15, 2002

SACRAMENTO — Legislative committees advanced twin bills Tuesday repealing a provision in state law that shields gunmakers from lawsuits over their marketing of firearms. 

The bills are in response to a state Supreme Court decision last year based on current law. 

Gun control advocates said manufacturers should be held responsible if they market firearms in a way that may make them attractive to criminals. 

“California gives special protection for this grossly negligent behavior, protection that no other industry enjoys,” Marilyn Merrill, a survivor of a 1993 shooting in San Francisco, told the Assembly Judiciary Committee. 

Opponents, including the National Rifle Association and California Rifle and Pistol Association, argued repealing the protection could be used to bankrupt not only firearms manufacturers, but makers of other products like skateboards and skydiving equipment that are inherently dangerous even if used as intended. 

Merrill and other survivors filed the suit that hinged on the Supreme Court decision after a 1993 San Francisco law firm shooting known as the 101 California Street massacre. She and five others were injured, and eight people died along with the gunman, who killed himself. 

They argued that two of the guns the killer used had no legitimate sporting or self-defense purpose. 

The Assembly committee and its Senate counterpart each advanced the bills to votes in their respective chambers. 

In addition to repealing the immunity language, the measures would specifically add language that manufacturers could be held liable for negligence in the design, distribution and marketing of firearms and ammunition.