SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Senate gave final passage Thursday to a bill that places limits on how gun manufacturers and retailers can market their products, subjecting them to civil lawsuits under the state’s Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act for any violations of those standards.
“One of the key components of this is to prevent marketing to children,” said Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, the bill’s chief sponsor in the Senate. He held up an ad from the company Wee 1 Tactical, maker of the JR-15 rifle, a gun that resembles an AR-15 rifle but is smaller and lighter, making it easier for children to fire.
“This is how people are marketing guns to our children,” he said. “I don’t think the Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act should allow that unchecked.”
House Bill 218, dubbed the Firearms Industry Responsibility Act, would subject gun manufacturers, retailers and others involved in the firearms industry to civil liability if they market any firearm, accessory, or component to people under the age of 18. They could also be held liable if they market weapons in a way that appears to support or encourage unlawful militia activity.
Gun manufacturers and retailers also could be held liable if they “knowingly create, maintain, or contribute to a condition in Illinois that endangers the safety or health of the public by conduct either unlawful in itself or unreasonable under all circumstances, including failing to establish or utilize reasonable controls.”
“Reasonable controls” would include procedures to prevent the sale of weapons to “straw purchasers” or to people who are prohibited under federal law from possessing firearms.
Senate Minority Leader John Curran, R-Downers Grove, called that provision overly broad and said the measure would likely be challenged in court.
“That portion of this proposal is a drastic overreach,” he said. “It is very broad in nature and lacks any of the guidance that a gun dealer would need, or a manufacturer for that matter, to actually comply with this act.”
But Attorney General Kwame Raoul, who pushed for the bill’s passage, said the measure is needed to hold the firearms industry accountable.
“No single industry should be given a free pass to engage in unlawful, unfair or deceptive conduct,” he said in a statement after the Senate vote. “The Firearms Industry Responsibility Act clarifies my office’s ability to use the Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, which is a tool to hold businesses accountable for fraudulent or deceptive practices through civil litigation.”
The Senate passed the bill 34-22. It passed the House on May 10 by a vote of 71-40. It will next be sent to Gov. JB Pritzker who said in a statement Thursday that he intends to sign it.
“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,” he said. “This legislation finally protects Illinoisans from predatory actions by the firearms industry.”
Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.