NSSF Challenges Delaware, N.J., ‘Public Nuisance’ Laws Allowing Frivolous Claims Against Firearm Manufacturers

Smith & Wesson CSX Micro-9 Pistol
The Smith & Wesson CSX Micro-9 Pistol. (Photo: GunsAmerica)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — NSSF®, The Firearm Industry Trade Association, filed suits against the attorneys general of Delaware and New Jersey, challenging recently-enacted “public nuisance” laws in both states that are “specifically designed to evade the judgment of Congress – and the Constitution.”

Both Delaware and New Jersey enacted public nuisance laws allowing the state and private parties to sue firearm manufacturers for the harm caused by the criminal misuse of lawfully sold firearms. In 2005, Congress barred these sorts of baseless lawsuits when it passed the bipartisan Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA). Delaware and New Jersey’s laws are preempted by the PLCAA under the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause.

Public nuisance lawsuits brought by municipalities against members of the firearm industry arose in the late 1990s and early 2000s to “regulate through litigation.” None of those dozens of lawsuits, including those by Wilmington, Del., and Newark, Camden County and the City of Camden, N.J., were successful. These municipal lawsuits intended to bankrupt the industry members or, through the massive cost of litigation, force them to accept settlement agreements that contained gun control provisions rejected by Congress and not supported by the American public. Delaware and New Jersey’s new laws are a blatant and unconstitutional attempt to return to an era of “regulation through litigation.”

“These laws enacted by the Delaware and New Jersey flout the will of Congress and undermine the U.S. Constitution,” said Lawrence G. Keane, NSSF Senior Vice President and General Counsel. “These state laws are at odds with bedrock principles of American law, which does not hold manufacturers and sellers legally responsible for the actions of criminals and remote third parties over whom the manufacturer and seller has no control when they misuse lawfully sold products.”

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Delaware and New Jersey’s laws also violate the First Amendment, Second Amendment, Due Process Clause and Commerce Clause. These laws would impose liability on industry members for firearms lawfully sold in other states that later find their way into Delaware or New Jersey through the independent actions of remote third parties and criminals.

These laws are in violation of the PLCAA, the bipartisan law Congress intended to stop these frivolous claims. Its constitutionality has been upheld by every appellate court in the nation to consider the issue.

The PLCAA simply codified black letter law. The PLCAA keeps activist lawyers from placing the blame on members of the firearm industry for the criminal misuse of legal firearms lawfully manufactured and sold. No other industry in America had been targeted by such baseless, politically motivated lawsuits.

NSSF is also filing motions for preliminary injunctions to stop the states from enforcing these laws.

About NSSF

NSSF is the trade association for the firearm industry. Its mission is to promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports. Formed in 1961, NSSF has a membership of thousands of manufacturers, distributors, firearms retailers, shooting ranges, sportsmen’s organizations and publishers nationwide. For more information, visit nssf.org.

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