Turnabout is fair play, as the saying goes. Since liberals and their elected officials across the country are constantly suing the gun industry in an effort to undermine gun rights, the shoe may be on the other foot in New Jersey next year. Smith & Wesson has filed a lawsuit against the Garden State and New Jersey’s Democratic Attorney General, Gurbir Grewal. At issue is a subpoena that Grewal issued to the firearms manufacturer seeking ten year’s worth of advertising and sales revenue. Smith & Wesson has identified the sweeping request as an infringement on the company’s First Amendment rights and an effort to intimidate them into accepting new restrictions on their operations as part of settlements in frivolous lawsuits. (Free Beacon)
Smith & Wesson sued the state Tuesday in response to a broad subpoena issued by New Jersey attorney general Gurbir Grewal (D.). The case, filed in federal district court, seeks to have the subpoena—which demanded a decade’s worth of advertising and sales records—thrown out and declared unconstitutional.
“The New Jersey Attorney General has taken a series of actions to suppress Smith & Wesson’s speech, and with the intention of damaging Smith & Wesson both financially and reputationally,” the complaint from the company said. “The most recent such action is the issuance of an administrative subpoena … on October 13, 2020, that allegedly seeks evidence of consumer fraud relating to advertising – but in reality, it seeks 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 pursue.”
Grewal is claiming that he’s conducting an investigation into potential “consumer fraud” and the company’s advertising and sales records are part of that effort. But even if there were some sort of complaint spurring this investigation, what sort of “consumer fraud” would Smith & Wesson be engaging in? They advertise firearms and supporting products. Unless the weapons can be shown to be inoperable or lacking in required safety features, what sort of deceptive advertising could they really manage?
What’s going on in New Jersey is an obvious example of a fishing expedition. The Free Beacon spoke to a senior attorney for the National Shooting Sports Foundation who described the process. The state drums up some sort of complaint, seeking to force the company to run up huge legal fees defending itself. Then they offer a settlement to avoid going to court, but in addition to damages, they attempt to force the company to agree to new restrictions on its operations. These act as de facto gun control regulations that liberal legislators aren’t able to pass into law.
Unfortunately, there are a couple of facts that suggest Smith & Wesson’s efforts to fight back may face an uphill battle. First of all, state law in New Jersey gives the Attorney General broad powers in terms of issuing subpoenas for almost any reason (or no reason at all). And those same laws make if very difficult to force the AG to show his cards if there’s an “ongoing investigation” that can be cited.
The second fact is that this tactic has been used before by other liberal groups and they have unfortunately achieved at least some levels of success. Look no further than the many years worth of frivolous lawsuits brought against Remington Arms by liberal gun-grabbing groups claiming to be representing the families of the victims of the Sandy Hook mass shooting. Despite repeated defeats in a number of courts as they sought a way to sidestep the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, they tied up Remington Arms in the courts for the better part of a decade. And while this certainly wasn’t the only driving factor, it was clearly part of a series of setbacks that led to the company filing for bankruptcy multiple times and finally shutting down their main manufacturing plant this year.
It’s still possible that the recently reinvigorated conservative wing of the Supreme Court might eventually wind up having to take a look at this suit, potentially shutting down this back-door effort to restrict Second Amendment rights and undermine the PLCAA. But we’re still in the very early stages of this show and it could take years before things reach that level.