U.S. Representative Debbie Dingell of Michigan has reintroduced legislation to grant the Consumer Product Safety Commission oversight of firearms, empowering the agency to investigate allegedly defective guns and force recalls.
“The gun industry is the only domestic manufacturer of a consumer product in the United States that is exempt from federal health and safety regulations,” Dingell said in a news release announcing the bill’s reintroduction. “This is dangerous and poses a real risk to public and household safety.”
No regulatory body has the power to investigate allegations that a gun is defective or to keep data on injuries caused by malfunctions. This is the fourth consecutive Congress in which Dingell has introduced her bill.
In the news release, Dingell cited an April investigation about the SIG Sauer P320 pistol from The Trace and The Washington Post. The story revealed claims from more than a hundred people that their pistols fired on them when they hadn’t pulled the trigger, resulting in at least 80 injuries. Some victims lost the ability to run or work; others barely survived, as bullets sliced near femoral arteries and spinal cords.
Because of the lack of safety regulation, victims have been left without recourse beyond costly litigation. Some 70 people have sued the company, resulting in at least five settlements. SIG Sauer has won at least three other cases on summary judgment and one at trial.
In the past, other alleged firearm defects have also been handled by the courts. Guns from the manufacturers Remington Arms and Taurus cumulatively injured and killed dozens of people before class action suits forced the companies to recall products and pay out damages.
Shortly after publication of the story, Dingell and other Democrats in Congress announced their support for changing consumer product safety laws to allow the federal government to intervene when a defective firearm hits the market. Senator Dick Durbin and Representative Robin Kelly from Illinois, as well as Representatives Katie Porter and Mark DeSaulnier from California said the change should involve granting consumer product oversight of firearms to the CPSC. Kelly, like Dingell, had introduced legislation in the past to institute such a change, and said she planned to reintroduce it in the current Congress.
Both Kelly’s and Dingell’s bills propose repealing an amendment in the agency’s founding charter that explicitly exempts firearms from the definition of “consumer product.” The amendment was originally drafted by Dingell’s now-deceased husband, Michigan representative John Dingell.
The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.