Senate Bill 5078, which could allow the state to sue members of firearms industry, passes out of committee

State lawmakers say Senate Bill 5078 was passed out of committee in Olympia Friday. The bill calls for the firearms industry to adopt controls to protect the public. Under the bill making its way through the legislature, if those members of the industry contributed to the illegal use of firearms, they could face legal action. 

In the debate surrounding the latest legislation aimed at curtailing gun violence in Washington state, April Schentrup, a mom who lost a child to gun violence, testified before the house appropriations committee in favor of Senate Bill 5078. 

"This bill will hold gun manufacturers and sellers liable for failing to make sure weapons don’t end up in the wrong hands," said April Schentrup, a supporter of 5078. "This policy will put an end to the industry’s special status and make it possible for survivors of gun violence to seek justice in court." 

The bill, "Prohibits firearm industry members from knowingly creating, maintaining, or contributing to a public nuisance; and from designing, selling, and marketing firearm industry products that promote conversion of legal products into illegal products, or which target minors or individuals prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms."

It also, "Establishes that violations constitute a public nuisance and are per se actionable under the Consumer Protection Act," and "Authorizes the Attorney General to investigate suspected violations and bring enforcement actions against firearm industry members."

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The Senior Policy Advisor on Public Safety to the Governor says individuals would also be able to take steps on their own to hold the industry accountable.

"A person may file a public nuisance claim to seek damages, or they may seek a remedy under the consumer protection act," said Barbara Serrano Senior Policy Advisor, Public Safety, Governor’s Office.  

Although Washington's Office of Firearm Safety and Violence doesn't get involved in decisions on bills like 5078, the executive director says there has been a push for stronger firearm laws nationwide.

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"There is in many of those cases, documented evidence from other states or other countries, that those increased protections could help keep Washingtonians safer," said Kate Kelly, Executive Director Office of Firearm Safety & Violence Prevention, Community Safety, Washington State Department of Commerce.

Meantime, State NRA Director Aoibheann Cline spoke in opposition to 5078. 

"The firearms industry provides thousands of jobs in this state," said Cline. "5078 will financially decimate these lawful business and any of those who may be able to afford to stick around will face exponential and perhaps unattainable increases in their liability insurance." 

Julie Barrett, Founder of Conservative Ladies of Washington & resident of 44th District, said that there was concern over "frivolous nuisance claims.

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"The passage of this would result in significant damage to the FFL industry," she said.  

Serrano says the governor is in support of three firearms-related bills which address assault weapons, the purchasing process, and industry accountability.   

Laura Clinton also testified that the Washington Attorney General's Office also supports Senate Bill 5078.  

Lawmakers say the bill will now likely head to the Rules Committee as it continues to make its way through the legislature.