New Jersey’s Public Nuisance Gun Law Triumphs: Federal Appeals Court Rejects NSSF Challenge

New Jersey Public Nuisance Gun Law Decision

Federal Appeals Court Upholds New Jersey’s Public Nuisance Gun Law Amid Controversy

In a landmark decision, a federal appeals court dismissed a lawsuit challenging New Jersey’s law that provides a mechanism for the state to take legal action against the gun industry. This ruling, delivered on Thursday by a three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit, deemed the lawsuit, initiated by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), as premature.

The law in question, enacted last year, grants New Jersey’s attorney general the authority to sue entities involved in the manufacture, distribution, sale, or marketing of gun-related products if they are found contributing to a public nuisance. This legislation faced opposition even before its implementation. The NSSF, a prominent firearm industry trade association, filed a lawsuit against it in November, prior to the law’s activation. A federal district judge initially halted the legislation, stating that New Jersey’s law was overshadowed by a federal statute from 2005, which shields the gun industry from liability in cases of product misuse.

However, the 3rd Circuit panel, consisting of Circuit Judge Stephanos Bibas (a Trump appointee), Circuit Judge Thomas Hardiman (a George W. Bush appointee), and Circuit Judge Arianna Freeman (a Biden appointee), concurred that the lawsuit was precipitated. Judge Bibas, penning the decision, remarked, “Because the Foundation has jumped the gun, its challenge must be dismissed.”

While the district judge had previously ruled in favor of the NSSF based on the federal statute, they did not address the Second Amendment and other constitutional challenges presented in the lawsuit. Following the initial decision, New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin (D) appealed to the 3rd Circuit, leading to the recent ruling.

Lawrence G. Keane, NSSF’s general counsel, expressed the association’s disagreement with the court’s decision but highlighted that the court did not explicitly state that New Jersey’s law contravenes the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA). Keane hinted at the possibility of refiling their complaint if New Jersey’s attorney general attempts to enforce the law.

In contrast, Attorney General Platkin celebrated the decision, emphasizing the importance of the public nuisance law in addressing irresponsible entities in the firearms industry.