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Illinois lawmakers pass bill making it easier to sue gun manufacturers

Illinois bill will make it easier for gun violence victims to sue manufacturers
Illinois bill will make it easier for gun violence victims to sue manufacturers 02:30

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A huge change is coming for victims of gun violence in Illinois.

Gov. JB Pritzker is poised to sign a bill that will help hold "reckless" gun manufacturers and advertisers accountable in court.

As CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey reported Friday, legal experts say the state law is really intended to encourage gun manufacturers and dealers to act responsibly because it is going to be easier for victims of gun violence to sue them in the State of Illinois.

Last fall, survivors and families of victims of the July 4th parade massacre in Highland Park filed lawsuits against Smith & Wesson – pointing to the gunmaker's advertising and even the company's YouTube page.

The lawsuit accused Smith & Wesson of appealing to young men like the Highland Park shooter to "effectively execute their violent fantasies."

"There's an attitude in the gun industry that they're not responsible for what happens with their products," said David Pucino, deputy chief counsel of the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Pucino said the Gun Violence Victims' Access to Justice Bill, which passed both houses this week and is on its way to Gov. Pritzker's office to sign, would make it easier for victims of gun violence and their families to take this type of legal action in the state of Illinois.

"There's an explicit exception in the federal statute that says if a gun company is breaking state law, they don't get any protection," Pucino said.

The legislation amends the state's current Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act to clarify that businesses in the firearms industry are subject to civil liability if they engage in unlawful business and marketing practices.

Illinois joins a handful of other states with this type of clarification, including New York, California, New Jersey, Delaware, and Hawaii.

Pucino explained that it is not just mass shooting victims who could benefit.

"Some of them there are very highly-publicized mass shootings, and some of them don't even make the paper - but this is a path for them to be able to get the accountability that they deserve, to get the compensation that they deserve, and to get some measure of justice," he said.

Gov. Pritzker released a statement saying:

"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. This legislation finally protects Illinoisans from predatory actions by the firearms industry. My thanks and congratulations to Attorney General (Kwame) Raoul, Senate President (Don) Harmon, and Representative (Jennifer) Gong-Gershowitz for championing this bill. I intend to sign this bill into law and clarify the Attorney General's ability to hold reckless manufacturers and advertisers accountable for their actions."

We checked in with Pritzker's office on the timing of the signing. We will keep following up.

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