In the wake of recent mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas, Buffalo and elsewhere, San Diego County supervisors voted 3-2 Tuesday to seek out policy recommendations that would enable the county to sue gun manufacturers for deaths caused by firearms.
Supervisors Nathan Fletcher, Terra Lawson-Remer and Nora Vargas were in favor, while their colleagues Joel Anderson and Jim Desmond were opposed. Fletcher and Lawson-Remer made the proposal.
Chief Administrative Officer Helen Robbins-Meyer will develop recommendations — after consulting with the county sheriff and other relevant departments — to cooperate with other law enforcement agencies to receive weapon seizure reports.
Robbins-Meyer will later return to the board with options on legal action against gun manufacturers.
Desmond said that while he’s in favor of stemming the tide of gun violence, it’s better to focus on mental health issues, which he called the root cause of mass gun killings. He advocated for more enforcement of existing laws, and said he favors harsher penalties for illegal gun use.
Anderson said he wouldn’t support the proposal, but also wanted to make sure that evidence collected by the county is useful, including detailed reports on weapon seizures.
During a 40-minute public comment period, those in favor of the proposal stressed accountability for irresponsible gun manufacturers, while opponents said guns themselves are not the problem.
Therese Hymer of San Diegans for Gun Violence Prevention said the board “can make a meaningful difference” with this policy, along with gun storage laws and full access to reports on recovered firearms.
Citing fears over increased gun violence, Hymer also asked how many residents were aware that a teenaged boy was accused of fatally shooting another 15-year-old boy last weekend in Lemon Grove.
In a statement, San Diego County Gun Owners PAC executive director Michael Schwartz, said: “The idea that the county will sue manufacturers because someone criminally misused their product is nothing short of ludicrous.
“Let’s be honest about this effort. This will never pass in the courts and it’s little more than a publicity opportunity for extremists Fletcher and Lawson-Remer. We ask that they stop distracting and blocking real policies that will help, such as school security and fixing mental health programs.”
North County resident Mike Borrello said the proposal was “ludicrous,” and compared it to the county suing Ford Motor Company for a driver running down a crowd of people. He also said that gun shop owners who strictly follow regulations have no control over how a gun owner behaves.
Fletcher and Lawson-Remer announced their plans Monday during a news conference outside the County Administration Building.
“We want to use this policy to put pressure on manufacturers to be responsible corporate citizens,” Fletcher said. “They shouldn’t be allowed to rake in money and then sit idly by as people using their product perform mass shootings.”
Lawson-Remer said that gun manufacturing “is a multi-billion business that profits off deadly products, and these corporations cannot get away with deliberately evading the law, marketing to kids and other reckless and illegal actions.”
She added: “It’s time to take our fight for common-sense gun safety from the statehouse to the courthouse, and hold firearm manufacturers accountable in a court of law for their role in deadly shootings.”
According to a news release, the supervisors “do not have a specific lawsuit they are wishing the county join at this time.”
Updated at 5:24 p.m. June 14, 2022
City News Service contributed to this article.