WSJ says Smith & Wesson subpoena crosses the line

The House Oversight Commmittee’s subpoena of Smith & Wesson demanding “granular” details about its sales of modern sporting rifles isn’t just an attempt at “character assassination”, according to the editors of the Wall Street Journal, it’s likely to be laughed out of court.

My colleague Tom Knighton wrote about Smith & Wesson’s response to the subpoena earlier today, but on today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co we’re taking a closer look at the support the gun company is getting from the editorial page of one of the biggest papers in the country. The WSJ editors pull no punches in their takedown of House Oversight chair Rep. Carolyn Maloney’s subpoena of the gun company, describing it as character assassination as well as a legally dubious move.

The dispute between the House Oversight Committee and Smith & Wesson escalated Monday when the company objected to the committee’s subpoena. Committee Democrats, led by Chair Carolyn Maloney, are demanding that the manufacturer produce sales and revenue figures for its AR-15-style sporting rifles. The company says the subpoena squashed months of good-faith efforts to cooperate.

“Congress must clearly spell out with even more specificity why it needs the granular level of information requested by the committee,” wrote the company’s lawyer Mark Paoletta in an Aug. 15 letter to the committee. The letter says Smith & Wesson has already provided detailed records of its rifle sales since House Oversight started investigating the industry in May. That wasn’t good enough for Ms. Maloney, yet she hasn’t described a legislative need for more specific data.

Probably because there isn’t a legislative need for the numbers. Instead, this is a purely political exercise. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Maloney was holding hearings demonizing the firearms industry while her fellow Democratic congresscritter from New York Jerry Nadler was leading the charge to ban so-called assault weapons. As the WSJ points out, while both Maloney and Nadler have served in Congress alongside each other for years, thanks to redistricting that will soon be changing.

The New York Congresswoman is in a primary battle against Rep. Jerrold Nadler and others after House seats were redrawn last year. Taking on the gun manufacturers could buy her support in the tony neighborhoods of Manhattan, but even politically unpopular companies deserve the protection of limits on Congress’s power.

I don’t know how politically unpopular Smith & Wesson is outside of deep blue districts like the one Nadler and Maloney are competing to represent next year, honestly. But in Manhattan I have no doubt that their attacks on gun companies is a political positive for both of them, which helps to explain why Maloney decided to issue the congressional subpoena against Smith & Wesson despite the fact that just two years ago the Supreme Court rule in Trump v. Mazars that these types of subpoenas must have a “clear legislative purpose”. By the time this subpoena gets litigated, Maloney is likely going to have lost her position as head of the House Oversight Committee and may not even be a sitting member of Congress anymore. If Republicans take control of the House this November, they’ll pull this subpoena and put a full stop to the Democrats’ witch hunt against gun makers, but even if Democrats manage by some miracle to hang on to their slim majority the courts should quash this subpoena based on Roberts’ reasoning in Mazars. This is nothing more than anti-gun grandstanding on the part of Carolyn Maloney, and the WSJ editors are right to call her out.