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April 28, 2023

SIGNED! Bill to Allow Victims of Gun Violence to Seek Justice Becomes Law

Legislation removes protections for firearm industry that prevent gun violence survivors from pursuing accountability in civil court

DENVER, CO - Governor Jared Polis today signed common sense gun violence prevention legislation sponsored by Senators Sonya Jaquez Lewis, D-Boulder, and Chris Kolker, D-Centennial, and Representatives Javier Mabrey, D-Denver, and Jennifer Parenti, D-Erie, to create new avenues for victims of gun violence to pursue justice.

“Colorado used to be home to one of the most punitive laws against gun violence survivors in the country, laws that shielded them from accountability and needed to be changed,” said Senator Sonya Jaquez Lewis, D-Longmont. “This new law will level the playing field by removing those extra protections and allowing legitimate lawsuits to move forward, ensuring the gun industry is no longer given special treatment and improving gun violence survivors’ ability to seek the justice they deserve.”

“Colorado’s laws gave the firearm industry extreme and unjust legal protections that have prevented gun violence victims from seeking accountability,” said Rep. Javier Mabrey, D-Denver. “By removing these excessive legal protections that aren’t afforded to the vast majority of other industries, we’re ensuring that Coloradans can hold bad actors accountable. I’m proud that Colorado law will now allow victims of gun violence to seek the justice they deserve.”

“Previously, Colorado gun sellers and manufacturers were provided legal protections far beyond those for most other businesses in the state and that prevented victims of gun violence from seeking justice,” Senator Chris Kolker, D-Centennial, said. “Removing Colorado’s overly broad gun industry immunity law will provide another avenue for survivors to pursue justice if they are harmed by irresponsible business practices.”

“This law ends excessive immunity protections for the firearms industry and creates new avenues for gun violence victims to seek justice through the courts," said Rep. Jennifer Parenti, D-Erie. "I'm hoping the ability to hold the firearms industry accountable when they break Colorado law will encourage them to be more active partners with us in the fight to end gun violence in our communities."

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

After their daughter was killed in the Aurora movie 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. SB23-168 is named the “Jessi Redfield Ghawi’s Act for Gun Violence Victims’ Access to Justice and Firearms Industry Accountability” in honor of Sandy and Lonnie Phillips’ daughter.

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 opportunity to hold gun sellers and manufacturers accountable for their actions.

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