DES MOINES, Iowa – Last Thursday, the Iowa House Public Safety Committee passed a bill, HSB 116 (now HF 621), 13 to 8. The legislation restricts liability in product liability cases involved firearm or ammunition manufacturers, distributors, or dealers.
The bill, in the statement of policy, reads, “The manufacture, distribution, or sale of firearms and ammunition by manufacturers, distributors, or dealers duly licensed by the appropriate federal and state authorities is a lawful activity and is not unreasonably dangerous, and the unlawful use of firearms and ammunition, rather than their lawful manufacture, distribution, or sale, is the proximate cause of injuries arising from their unlawful use.”
The bill states that a judge must dismiss a case and award “reasonable” attorney fees and costs if it is found that a plaintiff bringing a lawsuit is basing that action’s “theory of recovery” on the lawful design, manufacturer, marketing, or sale of a firearm or ammunition. Lawsuits against gun or ammunition manufacturers, distributors, or dealers can not be based on injuries caused by the unlawful use of a firearm or ammunition.
The legislation covers all firearm or ammunition manufacturers, importers, distributors, trade associations, sellers, or dealers.
Lawsuits based on the breach of contract or warranty, damage or harm caused by a defective firearm or ammunition, and injunctive relief to enforce a valid statute, rule, or ordinance are allowed under the bill.
“HSB116 is needed to stop attempts to effectively destroy the 2nd Amendment by suing firearm and ammunition manufacturers out of business,” State Rep. Steven Holt, R-Denison, told The Iowa Torch.
Holt chaired the bill’s subcommittee, managed the bill in committee, and is assigned as the floor manager when the bill is up for debate in the Iowa House.
“We are not talking about defects in manufacturing but rather lawsuits due to the improper use of a firearm. This would be like suing a car manufacturer when a drunk driver kills someone. We do not want this to happen in Iowa,” he added.
Richard Rogers, a board member with the Iowa Firearms Coalition, told The Iowa Torch that lawsuits this bill targets are a problem.
“Many politically motivated and abusive lawsuits have been pursued across the nation in attempts to harass, damage, and even cripple segments of entirely legal commerce in arms. They intend to hold businesses and individuals – who had acted entirely lawfully – liable for criminal acts committed with their products by third parties,” he said.
“This bill would prevent suits relating to the lawful design, manufacture, marketing, or sale of a firearm, firearm accessory, or ammunition. It would also prohibit suits seeking recovery of damages resulting from the criminal or unlawful use of a firearm, firearm accessory, or ammunition by a third party,” Rogers added. “It would not interfere with the normal prosecution of suits alleging breach of contract or warranty, damage or harm caused by a defective product or the like.”
He said this state law is necessary as the Biden Administration and Congressional Democrats have promised to repeal the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) enacted in 2005 for the same reasons.
Thirty-four states currently have similar legislation. The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) recently reported that Iowa had the greatest growth of any state in firearms-related employment in 2020.
The Iowa Torch also reached out to State Rep. Jarad Klein, R-Keota, the bill’s sponsor and chairman of the Iowa House Public Safety Committee. The Iowa Torch also reached out to State Rep. Sharon Steckman, D-Mason City, voted against the bill in the subcommittee. Neither lawmaker replied with a comment before publication.
There is a companion bill in the Iowa Senate, SF 344, with a subcommittee hearing scheduled on Thursday at 8:30 a.m. with State Senators Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig, Tony Bisignano, D-Des Moines, and Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale.