Firearms industry could face more legal risk in Illinois

The firearms industry, including gun sellers, could be sued for violations of Illinois law including marketing to young people under legislation state senators approved Thursday.

The House previously approved the bill and it now goes to Gov. J.B. Pritzker, also a Democrat, who said that he will sign it. Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, a Democrat, spearheaded the proposal.

"Gun violence is a public health epidemic, and those who encourage unlawful use of a firearm or target sales of firearms to minors worsen the scourge of gun violence in our communities," Pritzker said in a statement. "This legislation finally protects Illinoisans from predatory actions by the firearms industry."

Republican lawmakers objected to the proposal during Thursday's Senate vote, saying it was too broad and would lead to court challenges.

The federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, approved in 2005, broadly exempts gun makers from being sued for injuries caused by criminal misuse of their products. But it provides exceptions, including an allegation that the manufacturer or seller violated state or federal law on the sale or marketing of firearms.

Senate President Don Harmon, a Democrat from Oak Park, said the proposal makes clear that the industry must comply with Illinois law, including a prohibition on marketing guns to anyone under 18. Before Thursday's vote, Harmon referenced advertising campaigns for a "JR-15" rifle that dubbed the weapon "smaller, safer and lighter."

"This is how people are marketing guns to our children," he said.

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