Judge blocks NJ law allowing state to sue gun industry

A federal judge has temporarily blocked a New Jersey law that allowed the state to sue gun manufacturers for creating a “public nuisance” with their sale and marketing of firearms.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) signed the law in June to create a path for suing companies engaged in the sale, manufacture, distribution, importing or marketing of gun-related products for a public nuisance, defined as conduct that interferes with the public’s rights.

It also allows liability for gun industry members who fail to “establish, implement, and enforce reasonable controls” on those products.

But U.S. District Judge Zahid Quraishi ruled Tuesday that the law violates the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, a federal law that states that civil actions cannot be brought against a gun manufacturer or seller for injuries that result from the “misuse” of a firearm or related product by a third party.

The law includes six exceptions, but Quraishi did not immediately find that any of them apply, leading to the preliminary injunction.

Quraishi said the state law is in “direct conflict” with the federal law’s purpose, also citing concerns about whether the state law is constitutional, though he did not address those questions in the ruling.

The complaint over the law was filed by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), a nonprofit trade association for the hunting and shooting sport industry.

The ruling comes a day after another federal judge temporarily blocked a New Jersey law that banned firearms at casinos, parks and beaches. That judge also blocked parts of that law that prohibited firearms from being carried at sensitive places like libraries, museums, bars and restaurants where alcohol is sold last month.

Other states like California have also approved legislation allowing gun manufacturers to be sued if a firearm they sell is used to cause harm.

Lawrence Keane, a senior vice president for government and public affairs at NSSF, told Politico in an interview that the ruling is important because other states are considering legislation based on the laws in New Jersey and California. He said the organization will file a lawsuit in the coming months to challenge the California law.

“Today’s decision will be impactful in giving other state legislatures pause before they enact an unconstitutional law,” Keane said.

Tyler Jones, a spokesperson for Murphy’s office, said the governor is “disappointed” that the court issued the temporary injunction, but he is confident the decision will be “swiftly” reversed on appeal.

“Governor Murphy was proud to sign the public nuisance law, which allows the Attorney General to hold the gun industry accountable for their own misconduct that is causing carnage in this state and across America,” Jones said.

–Updated at 2:40 p.m.

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