A federal judge has breathed new life into one of Gov. Phil Murphy’s gun safety laws.
Judge Stephanos Bibas, writing for a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reinstated a state law Murphy signed last Summer that gives the New Jersey Attorney General the power to sue gun makers and sellers for recklessly contributing to a “public nuisance.”
Bibas said the National Shooting Sports Foundation that sued in November to block the law had “jumped the gun” in challenging the law because the attorney general hasn’t enforced it yet. A lower court had suspended enforcement of it as the case made its way through the courts.
Murphy said he was “thrilled” by the unanimous ruling signed into law in July 2022 that authorizes the Attorney General to hold bad actors in the firearms industry accountable for dangerous sales and marketing practices.
“My administration will always fight for the safety of New Jersey residents, even when it means taking on gun sellers that put profits above innocent lives,” he said.
Backers of the law argue its intention is to hold bad actors in the gun industry accountable for misconduct that results in harm to the public and fuels the epidemic of gun violence in New Jersey and across the nation.
Passed with six other laws in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court Bruen decision, the law empowers the attorney general to sue gun-industry members whose “unlawful” conduct contributes to a public nuisance caused by the sale, manufacturing, distribution, importing, or marketing of a gun-related product.
In its lawsuit, the foundation called the law overly broad and said it violates the First and Second Amendments and the due process and commerce clauses of the U.S. Constitution.
But the three judges overturned the preliminary injunction with instructions to lower court to dismiss the case.
“The attorney general ‘might sue’ the foundation or its members, ‘but it might not,’” Bibas wrote. “With so much still vague and uncertain, a court should not weigh in.”
New Jersey Attorney General Matt Platkin in a press statement argued the law never should have been enjoined, and said his office will put it in effect in its entirety.
Going Back to Court
“This law is an important public safety tool, which is why I created the Nation’s first statewide office dedicated to holding accountable those whose unlawful conduct causes bloodshed, and fuels the gun violence epidemic, for the sake of their bottom line,” said Platkin.
Lawrence G. Keane, the foundation’s senior vice president and general counsel, said should the Murphy Administration attempt to enforce the law, they will immediately refile their complaint.
“It is important to note the court did not say New Jersey’s law does not violate the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act; it clearly does,” Keane said. “During oral arguments, the panel appeared to have concerns with the law, as did the district court that enjoined enforcement.”