Wed, Jan 18, 2023 7:01 AM
By Bruce Walker, The Center Square
A coalition of 18 state attorneys general, all Democrats, on Wednesday submitted an amicus brief in support of New York's firearms industry accountability law.
In the brief, the coalition led by Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul asserts the law's legitimacy to protect residents public health, safety and welfare.
The law in question aims to hold the firearms industry legally liable for what the prosecutors label "irresponsible sale and marketing of firearms when that conduct results in harm to the public. Under the law, public officials or private citizens can file a lawsuit against a gun industry member when they knowingly or recklessly endanger the safety or health of the public in New York state through the unlawful or unreasonable sale, manufacturing, importing, or marketing of firearms. Gun industry members can also be held liable when they fail to use reasonable controls and procedures to prevent firearms from being unlawfully used or sold in New York state."
New York became the first state in the nation to enact a gun accountability law in 2021. The law is facing court challenges, which contend it is unconstitutional and preempted by federal law. An initial lawsuit was dismissed by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York. The attorneys general brief seeks to persuade an appellate court to uphold the lower court's ruling.
"Although the amici States have taken different approaches when enacting measures designed to curb and remediate the effects of gun violence, they agree that public nuisance causes of action like the one created by § 898 – which addresses the gun industry members’ own misconduct – fall well within the States’ sovereign authority to protect their residents and to 'provide tort remedies to their citizens as they see fit,'" Raoul wrote in the brief.
In a statement on the Smith & Wesson website, CEO Mark Smith countered what he characterizes as anti-Second Amendment legislation, including the New York statute.
"It is no surprise that the cities suffering most from violent crime are the very same cities that have promoted irresponsible, soft-on-crime policies that often treat criminals as victims and victims as criminals," Smith said. "Many of these same cities also maintain the strictest gun laws in the nation. But rather than confront the failure of their policies, certain politicians have sought more laws restricting the 2nd Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens, while simultaneously continuing to undermine our institutions of law and order. And to suppress the truth, some now seek to prohibit firearm manufacturers and supporters of the 2nd Amendment from advertising products in a manner designed to remind law-abiding citizens that they have a Constitutional right to bear arms in defense of themselves and their families. To be clear, a Smith & Wesson firearm has never broken into a home; a Smith & Wesson firearm has never assaulted a woman out for a late-night run in the city; a Smith & Wesson firearm has never carjacked an unsuspecting driver stopped at a traffic light."
Attorneys general signing the brief were from California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin.
"It's time for gun manufacturers and dealers to be held accountable when they act irresponsibly, such as in failing to prevent the straw purchasing of guns or employing marketing strategies that target vulnerable youth," Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a statement. "The New York law is common-sense firearm legislation that imposes reasonable regulations to respond to the gun industry’s misconduct. I proudly stand with my colleagues in supporting New York's desire to protect the public by enacting this new law."