Colorado's gun industry lawsuit bill pared back... at request of Democrat governor

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

One of the latest trends in anti-gun states is laws that permit people to file lawsuits against gun manufacturers. Their thinking is that despite federal laws, they can target gunmakers’ marketing after Remington’s insurance company settled with the families of Sandy Hook.

Colorado is trying to pass a similar bill.

However, that bill included a lot of other things. In fact, Gov. Jared Polis has asked that those items be removed.

ajor sections of a Democratic measure making it easier to sue the firearm industry in Colorado were removed from the bill last week in an early-morning committee meeting at the behest of Gov. Jared Polis.

Rules intended to further require gun sellers to block children and criminals from obtaining weapons were stripped from the legislation, as was a provision forcing the industry to take steps to prevent people intent on harming themselves or others from buying weapons. Instead, the bill would govern the industry under the same laws that apply to all other businesses in the state.

The amendments to Senate Bill 168, part of a package of gun bills brought by Democrats this year, were made by an ad hoc panel of three senators and three representatives, called a conference committee, that was created to reconcile amendments made in the House and Senate to the measure. But instead, the legislation was changed in a more significant way, including to remove a section requiring the gun industry to adhere to a so-called code of conduct specific to firearms sellers and manufacturers.

The code would have required the industry to:

  • “Take reasonable precautions” to ensure its products aren’t sold to a retailer that “fails to establish and implement reasonable controls”
  • Not manufacture and market products that can be easily modified into something illegal or something that is targeted toward minors or people who are barred from purchasing a gun. It’s already a crime to sell a gun to someone who is prohibited from possessing a firearm, including people younger than 18, and people convicted of certain felonies.

Alternatively, the gun industry would be required under the bill to adhere to the Colorado Consumer Protection Act, the catchall law governing businesses. It prohibits businesses from engaging in false or misleading advertising and/or fraudulent business practices.

The problem, of course, is that no one can define “reasonable precautions” in the first place.

And the whole “no marketing toward minors” thing has been shown to be a lot more than not trying to sell guns to kids. It also creates a chilling effect on youth shooting events in general.

As a result, that creates a lot more problems for such a bill, and it has problems enough as it is.

For one thing, these measures ignore the Protection of Lawful Commerce of Arms Act. The PLCAA explicitly prevents lawsuits against gun companies. These bills try to worm their way through a loophole that permits lawsuits for negligence by trying to argue their marketing is negligent.

It’s not.

Plus, it’s all predicated on a blatant misunderstanding of events. The Sandy Hook families didn’t win the lawsuit so much as reach a settlement. There was no decision based on the merits of the case. An insurance company simply decided to pay money rather than litigate the case, a case they really had no stake in.

As a result, it’s amazing that so many states are jumping on this lawsuit train with this in mind.

Polis was right to strip this other nonsense out of the bill, but I don’t think that gets Colorado off the hook. It’s only a matter of time before the courts declare that these bills are unconstitutional, in my opinion, and then none of it will matter.