In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen the gun control lobby has cranked up its efforts to use civil litigation to try to shut down the firearms industry. California Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed a several gun bills designed to make it easier to sue gun makers over the criminal misuse of their products, and now New Jersey Acting Attorney General Matthew Platkin is dedicating staff to that same end.
Platkin announced on Monday the formation of the Statewide Affirmative Firearms Enforcement office, which he says will be dedicated to suing companies within the firearms industry that ““knowingly or recklessly contribute to a public nuisance in New Jersey through unlawful or unreasonable conduct.”
“Make no mistake – thanks to Governor Murphy and the Legislature, New Jersey is once again a national leader when it comes to combatting gun violence,” said Acting Attorney General Platkin. “At a time when the U.S. Supreme Court is undermining states’ efforts to protect their residents from the carnage of gun violence, New Jersey’s Statewide Affirmative Firearms Enforcement Office will use the new public nuisance legislation to hold the gun industry accountable. With the establishment of this office we are sending a clear message to every participant in the firearms industry: if you violate our laws, you will pay.”
The Supreme Court didn’t “undermining states’ efforts to protect their residents from the carnage of gun violence.” It told the state of New York (and other “may issue” states like New Jersey) that they were infringing on the rights of residents to protect themselves. The state of New Jersey is under no obligation whatsoever to protect any of its individual residents, and the same is true for every police department and law enforcement officer in the state. Ultimately your safety is your responsibility, and Platkin and his fellow anti-gun Democrats want to do everything they can to prevent law-abiding New Jersey residents from exercising their right to armed self-defense.
The acting AG’s press release makes clear that companies don’t even have to violate any of New Jersey’s gun laws in order to be sued into oblivion.
SAFE’s work will be distinct from but supplement the Department’s ongoing – and successful – efforts to use the state’s Consumer Fraud Act (CFA) to stop out-of-state gun dealers from selling illegal firearm products into New Jersey over the internet. In March 2022, Acting Attorney General Platkin announced that the State had obtained a $175,000 judgment against Florida gun vendor 22Mods4All for violating the CFA by advertising and selling illegal large-capacity magazines (LCMs) to New Jersey consumers online. The judgment also permanently barred 22Mods4All from future online sales of LCMs here. A second gun vendor named in that suit – Florida-based Elite Aluminum – agreed to pay a $150,000 civil penalty and stop selling LCMs in New Jersey.
But the public nuisance lawsuits will provide even more robust enforcement tools, by allowing the Department to hold firearms manufacturers and retail dealers accountable for endangering the safety and health of New Jersey residents through the sale, manufacture, distribution, or marketing of lethal, but nonetheless legal, firearms.
Those victories against companies selling “large capacity magazines” are likely short-lived, since I don’t see the state’s mag ban passing constitutional muster, but note as well the last paragraph quoted above. Even guns and magazines that don’t run afoul of New Jersey’s many restrictions on firearms could be the subject of “public nuisance” litigation under the theory that simply manufacturing, selling, distributing, and marketing these products creates a risk to health and public safety.
While Plakin is taking aim at the firearms industry, teenagers who are bringing loaded guns to school in the state are walking away with probation and he’s not saying a word. It’s evident that New Jersey’s latest anti-gun initiative isn’t about stopping crimes like these, but about preventing law-abiding citizens from accessing their Second Amendment rights. Matthew Platkin should be embarrassed by these actions aimed at curtailing the exercise of a constitutionally-protected right, but he’s proudly touting them instead. Here’s hoping that he’ll soon get a reminder from the courts that what he’s trying to do doesn’t just place him on the wrong side of history, but the wrong side of the law as well.