US judge rejects challenge to Washington state law that could hold gun makers liable for shootings

Mar 8, 2024, 4:12 PM

SEATTLE (AP) — A federal judge on Friday rejected a challenge to a Washington state law that cleared the way for lawsuits against the gun industry in certain cases.

The measure was one of three bills signed by Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee last year seeking to address gun violence.

It requires the industry to exercise reasonable controls in making, selling and marketing weapons, including steps to keep guns from being sold to people known to be dangerous or to straw buyers. It allows the attorney general or private parties, such as the family members of shooting victims, to sue for violations or damages under the state’s Consumer Protection Act.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade association, challenged the law in U.S. District Court in Spokane, saying the measure violates the Second Amendment as well as the free-speech rights of its members.

U.S. District Judge Mary K. Dimke rejected the lawsuit in a decision Friday, saying the organization had not established legal standing to challenge the measure. She noted that its members were neither being sued under the law nor had expressed an intent to violate its terms.

“This law protects Washingtonians from gun violence by ensuring that gun industry members face real accountability when their irresponsible conduct harms our communities,” Democratic Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a news release.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation, based in Connecticut, did not immediately return a message seeking comment after business hours Friday.

In 2005, Congress passed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, shielding the gun industry from liability in some circumstances. States, however, are allowed to create exemptions from that federal law, Ferguson said. Washington and four other states — Delaware, New York, New Jersey and California — have done so.

The other bills signed by Inslee last year included one banning the sale of certain semi-automatic rifles and another imposing a 10-day waiting period on firearms purchases.

Legal challenges to the sales ban as well as to the state’s ban on the manufacture and sale of high-capacity magazines, adopted in 2022, are pending.

There have been 10 mass killings — nine of them shootings — in the U.S. so far this year, according to a database maintained by The Associated Press and USA Today in partnership with Northeastern University. At least 47 people have died in those killings, which are defined as incidents in which four or more people die within a 24-hour period, not including the killer — the same definition used by the FBI.

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US judge rejects challenge to Washington state law that could hold gun makers liable for shootings