A bill currently in the Illinois House of Representative’s Rules Committee would give private citizens the right to sue over the damage done by guns.
The bill, HB4156, would hold any gun manufacturer, importer, or dealer liable for any injury or death from any unlawful discharge of a gun in Illinois. And if passed, it would allow any private citizen civil action against any person or entity who violates the law. Anyone who sued could be awarded no less than $10,000.
It’s called the Protecting Heartbeats Act.
If that sounds lot like Texas’s SB8, bill sponsor State Rep. Margaret Croke (D-Chicago) said that’s intentional. There is one big difference. The Texas law is written so that even an Uber driver taking someone to a clinic could be sued. The proposed Illinois law doesn’t make those giving transport liable.
Firearm groups in the state are not happy about it. Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois Rifle Association, told Prairie State Wire that it would shutter the gun industry in the state.
“There’s no defense. It’s designed to destroy the firearms industry and the people who like to shoot them for sport…or for duty…or who knows what?,” Pearson told the conservative news site.
Croke said she wasn’t really a reader of Prairie State Wire and is realistic about how fast it can move through the General Assembly.
“I don’t expect it to move in the upcoming session unless there’s a real move for gun control,” Croke said. She’s also well aware of the realities of going into an election year in 2022 and the reluctance of other Democrats to vote for the bill.
“But there can be conversations going forward,” she said.
The similarity to the Texas law may bring a smile, but the goal for better gun control is very real. According to Gun Violence Archive, 2021 has already topped 2020 in violent gun deaths. Unintentional gun deaths alone have almost doubled from last year. Cities like Chicago have also been seeing an increase gun violence.
She pointed out that we are in a litigious society and businesses often won’t respond until there is legal and financial impact. This could allow people have access to that influence.
“People in areas with gun violence can feel powerless,” Croke said. “This can give them some agency.”