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March 26, 2023

Houses Advances Bill to Allow Victims of Gun Violence to Seek Justice

DENVER, CO - The House today advanced commonsense gun violence prevention legislation on a preliminary vote to create new avenues to pursue justice for victims of gun violence.

“Colorado is one of the only states in America that has extreme anti-victim laws that punish gun violence victims and their families for attempting to pursue accountability from the gun industry in civil court,” said Rep. Javier Mabrey, D-Denver. “Civil lawsuits encourage sellers and manufacturers to behave responsibly and have repeatedly resulted in the enhanced safety of consumer products. We’re removing Colorado’s extreme gun industry immunity law to give victims the opportunity to pursue justice from bad actors.”

“All industries should be held to a similar standard for ethical and responsible business practices, but especially when those actions cause severe damage, injury or death,” said Rep. Jennifer Parenti, D-Erie. “This legislation restores Coloradans right to pursue justice through our courts and is an important step in encouraging the firearms industry to take more precautions to keep our communities safe.”

Right now, gun sellers and manufacturers enjoy broad protections under the federal PLCAA law from most types of civil lawsuits - and Colorado law goes even further by including a punitive provision that makes victims of gun violence who sue the gun industry pay the company’s legal fees in dismissed cases. SB23-168 would remove Colorado’s overly-broad immunity protections for gun sellers and manufacturers and allow legitimate lawsuits against the gun industry to move forward.

After their daughter was killed in the Aurora theater shooting, Sandy and Lonnie Phillips sued four online retailers that irresponsibly sold magazines, thousands of rounds of ammunition, and body armor to the murderer. Under Colorado’s immunity law, they were forced to pay around $200,000 in legal fees to bulk ammunition sellers. They ended up selling their house and declared bankruptcy.

Civil liability plays an important role in promoting consumer safety, and lawsuits can help incentivize industries to take reasonable steps to prevent their products or business practices from causing foreseeable risks to human life and wellbeing. 

Removing Colorado’s gun industry shielded liability will allow survivors like the Phillips and countless others to seek appropriate justice and fair remedies via civil actions, and will give survivors the legal opportunity to hold gun sellers and manufacturers accountable for their actions.

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