Smith & Wesson is filing suit against New Jersey seeking declaratory and injunctive relief from Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal, claiming that the state’s actions against the company are in violation of the Constitution.
New Jersey is a proving ground for a new tactic being used to target gun manufacturers by anti-gun lobbies, by claiming gun companies’ marketing campaigns are false advertising.
As a result, New Jersey is taking actions against Smith & Wesson by issuing subpoenas seeking any evidence of fraud relating to advertising, a move that S&W says is being done “to suppress and punish lawful speech regarding gun ownership in order to advance an anti-Second Amendment agenda that the Attorney General publicly committed” to pursuing, according to the lawsuit.
“The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to free speech no matter whether the government disagrees with that speech,” Smith & Wesson argues. “Indeed, governments throughout history have abused their power by punishing speech to suppress dissent and harm political opponents.”
“The only fraud here is the Attorney General’s abuse of his position to suppress a political viewpoint with which he disagrees.” Smith & Wesson called it “an unconstitutional fishing expedition.”
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy (D) has been open about these tactics. “We’re going to name and shame,” he said, talking about targeting gun manufacturers. “I’m sick of our — mostly young — people getting wounded or killed by guns that are illegally trafficked into New Jersey.”
“Over the past year, we have been working with the State Police to release ‘GUNStat’ reports, showing where firearms used in crimes in our state come from,” he said in his announcement. “Our next step is to show which firearms manufacturers’ weapons are endangering our streets.
“It is my hope that bringing light to this topic will encourage these manufacturers to act responsibly and work with us to stop weapons they make from ending up in the hands of dangerous criminals,” Murphy said. “We must continue working to end the scourge of gun violence in our communities.”
“I’m proud to work the New Jersey State Police to show the links between manufacturers and crime guns,” added Grewal. “Firearms manufacturers have a real role to play in keeping us all safe, and in light of these reports, I call on them to put into place strong measures against straw purchasing and to invest in technologies that will make their products safer.”
Smith & Wesson argues that the “name and shame” policy is not about public safety, but rather to cause reputational and financial damage to gun companies. They also argue that most gun owners believe that gun ownership improves personal safety, and that can’t be the basis for any false advertising claims.
Further, Smith & Wesson’s suit claims that this attack is politically motivated, and is a violation of the “First, Second, Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, as well as the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.”