Like New York before it, New Jersey enacted a law enabling lawsuits brought by plaintiffs against gun makers and retailers under the state’s consumer protection laws. It’s designed to allow victims of “gun violence” to sue gun makers and retailers when criminals use legally-made and sold firearms in the commission of a crime.
These so-called “nuisance” laws — defining guns as presenting a public nuisance for which gun makers and retailers are liable — are thinly veiled attempts at lawfare, trying to get around the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. The goal is to bankrupt the gun industry under a sea of frivolous lawsuits…the very kind that the PLCAA was passed by Congress and signed into law to prevent.
Today, in response to a motion for a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit brought by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF v. Platkin), judge Zahid N. Quraishi blocked enforcement of the New Jersey law, noting that it “is in direct conflict with the PLCAA’s purpose.”
Well, yeah. That’s been clear from the start.
As Judge Quraishi wrote . . .
The Court is mindful that firearms are inherently dangerous and even more so in the wrong hands, but it is also mindful that the PLCAA embodies Congress’s earnest effort to balance those dangers against the national interest in protecting access to firearms. Under the circumstances, the Court is therefore compelled to find that (the state of New Jersey) fails to show legitimate countervailing concerns and that the public interest favors granting Plaintiff’s motion for preliminary injunction.
The NSSF is, as you’d expect, pleased by the outcome. They released this statement . . .
NSSF, The Firearm Industry Trade Association, welcomed the U.S. District Court of New Jersey’s preliminary injunction order to block a public nuisance law that was recently enacted by Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy. That law allowed frivolous and unconstitutional lawsuits against members of the firearm industry for the subsequent criminal misuse of a lawfully-sold firearm by remote third parties over whom members of the industry have no control. Judge Zahid Quraishi noted that the landmark 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) specifically protects against these baseless lawsuits that have no foundation in a basic understanding of tort law.
“NSSF is pleased by today’s ruling because we know New Jersey’s law is unconstitutional as it is preempted by federal law,” said Lawrence G. Keane, NSSF’s Senior Vice President and General Counsel. “The bottom line is that Congress specifically addressed these sorts of harassing and baseless lawsuits when PLCAA was passed with an overwhelming bipartisan majority and signed into law by President George W. Bush. The court correctly pointed out in its opinion that New Jersey’s law directly conflicts with the intention of Congress.”
The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) blocks lawsuits that attempt to hold firearm and ammunition industry companies liable for the criminal actions of third parties who misuse the industry’s lawfully sold, non-defective products. More specifically, this common sense law ensures that responsible and law-abiding federally licensed manufacturers and retailers of firearms and ammunition are not unjustly blamed in federal and state civil actions for “the harm caused by those who criminally or unlawfully misuse” these products that function as designed and intended.
Today’s decision should give pause to other states considering similar bills modeled on New Jersey’s law before they enact similarly unconstitutional laws that NSSF will challenge on behalf of the firearm industry. NSSF is challenging similar laws recently enacted in New York and Delaware.
NSSF was represented by Clement & Murphy, PLLC, in its challenge to New Jersey’s unconstitutional public nuisance law.