Lawmakers advance liability protection for gun manufacturers, sellers

    Firearms on display at a gun show. (Photo by Alex Wong, Getty Images)

    Gun and ammunition manufacturers and sellers would be shielded from liability for shooting injuries and deaths under legislation approved Thursday by an Iowa House committee.

    House Study Bill 116 states that the manufacture and distribution of firearms by duly authorized entities is “not unreasonably dangerous.” It would prevent lawsuits for nuisance abatement or recovery of damages resulting from the unlawful use of a firearm or ammunition.

    People who try to sue a firearms industry outlet and lose would have to pay attorney fees and costs for the defendant.

    Rep. Sharon Steckman, D-Mason City, questioned why, when the GOP-controlled Legislature is “working so hard to make people have the right to bear arms, in pretty much any way they want, then why are we taking away their right to a court decision?”

    Rep. Steven Holt, R-Denison, said the proposal is meant to head off “back-door assaults on the Second Amendment” that “seek to hold gun and ammunition manufacturers and distributors responsible for the illegal use of that which they produce.”

    The bill allows lawsuits for breach of contract, damages caused by defective products or injunctive relief for violations of law.

    Although similar legislation exists in federal law, Holt said the legislation was needed in Iowa because a judge has ruled the federal law unconstitutional “at least once and said it needed to be handled on the state level.” He noted Vice President Joe Biden has also called for repealing the federal law.

    The bill passed on a 13-8 vote and moves next to the House floor for debate.

    Kathie Obradovich
    Editor Kathie Obradovich has been covering Iowa government and politics for more than 30 years, most recently as political columnist and opinion editor for the Des Moines Register. She previously covered the Iowa Statehouse for 10 years for newspapers in Davenport, Waterloo, Sioux City, Mason City and Muscatine. She is a leading voice on Iowa politics and makes regular appearances on state, national and international news programs. She has led national-award-winning coverage of the Iowa Caucuses and the Register’s Iowa Poll.