Senator James Gaughran in Huntington on January 31, 2019.

Senator James Gaughran in Huntington on January 31, 2019. Credit: Jessica Rotkiewicz

ALBANY — Families of victims of gun violence would be able to sue shooters for “emotional damages,” under a bill two Long Island legislators proposed Tuesday.

The measure, supported by Sen. James Gaughran (D-Huntington) and Assemb. Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove), would change New York’s wrongful death laws to allow lawsuits seeking compensation for emotional damages stemming from a death or serious injury caused by a gun.

Currently, state law allows families to pursue economic damages only, which the legislators say is an “antiquated” view. They noted that 41 other states allow wrongful death lawsuits to pursue noneconomic damages.

Wrongful death lawsuits have sprouted from the spate of mass shootings around the nation. For example, multiple families have sued the gunman of the 2018 Waffle House shooting in Tennessee that left four dead.

The lawmakers said the legislation would provide “recourse to parents who lose a child to gun violence" to compensate them for grief and suffering.

“This bill will provide desperately needed recourse for families who lose a loved one due to senseless gun violence,” Gaughran said in a statement. “It will bring New York’s nearly 150-year-old wrongful death statute in line with the rest of the country and allow financial protections to grieving families.”

Gaughran said the bill is narrowly drawn to apply only to instances involving use of a lethal weapon. The State Legislature is adjourned and doesn’t return to Albany until Jan. 8 when it officially opens the 2019 legislative session, which runs through early June.

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