NJ Attorney General Goes Fishing For Your Gun Rights

By Faye Higbee

The NJ Attorney General, Gurbir Grewel, has begun a new crusade to undermine your gun rights. He’s gone fishing…fishing for ‘flaws’ in the way gun manufacturers market their firearms. But when he sent a subpeona to Smith and Wesson, they filed a lawsuit against his action.

Grewel’s plan was to subpeona gun manufacturers documents that show how a gun is advertised. Those documents were supposed to include, “claims of the safety of the company’s products, whether they ‘make a home safer, or enhance one’s lifestyle; whether an untrained consumer could successfully and effectively use a Smith & Wesson firearm for personal or home defense; and whether private citizens should have the right to carry a concealed firearm.’” (Cam Edwards at Bearing Arms).

The NJ Attorney General went on a “fishing expedition” to find fatal flaws in the advertising practices of Smith & Wesson.

The lawsuit argues that Grewel’s anti-gun ideology has led him to join gun control activists in targeting gun makers through “lawfare,” noting, for instance, that Grewel has specifically hired a law firm named Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LLP with an eye to target gun manufacturers. That firm is also counsel for a little-known coalition called FACT, which is comprised of anti-gun litigators from Giffords, Brady, and other gun control groups. FACT’s mission is to “craft creative legal strategies” to advance the gun control agenda, and at the moment, going after gun manufacturers for their advertising is seen as a tactic with a lot of potential.

Cam Edwards

S&W is a time-honored weapons manufacturer that started in 1852. They are NOT based in New Jersey, which may put a crimp in the NJ Attorney General’s subpeona. The jurisdiction is in federal court, not state court (which would almost guarantee a S&W failure).

Photo via S&W website. Revolver from 1870.

Suppressing Free Speech and Gun Rights

The subpeona to Smith and Wesson was not tied to any specific case. It simply demanded documents that are highly subjective to some people, many of which “go back decades.” Does a firearm make you safer? We would say yes. The anti-gunners emphatically say no. Should people have the right to carry a concealed weapon? Again, we would say yes, the other side would say no. They are opinions, not legal determinations. The subpeona is designed to suppress the free speech rights of every gun manufacturer to whom it was sent. Even gun owners.

Through the Subpoena, purportedly acting pursuant to the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, the Attorney General commands Smith & Wesson to produce a vast collection of documents on a number of topics, most of which are, at bottom, opinions on either legal issues or matters of current public debate. These statements of opinion should not be subject to review by State officials for “accuracy,” and cannot form the basis of any investigation sounding in “fraud.”

For example, the Subpoena treats as fraudulent, any alleged position that guns enhance safety. To the extent Smith & Wesson has ever advocated for such a position, it is an opinion held by many people, many of whom are customers of Smith & Wesson’s business. The search “do guns make you safer” in Google returns 248 million results. Some of those returns reflect the position that guns do not make one safer, while others present the exact opposite position.

The Subpoena also demands that Smith & Wesson defend what appears to be a legal position on the Second Amendment – to wit, the Subpoena demands the company’s position on “[w]hether Smith & Wesson [f]irearms can be legally carried and concealed by any [c]onsumer, [i]ncluding by New Jersey [c]onsumers, while in New Jersey[.]” This purported legal position cannot constitute a statement sounding in fraud.

The remainder of the Subpoena constitutes an unconstitutional fishing expedition into virtually all of Smith & Wesson’s purported advertisements and marketing materials, going back decades. Moreover, as evidenced by the Attorney General’s close coordination with antiSecond Amendment Activists, this fishing expedition is aimed at obtaining documents for use by those anti-Second Amendment Activists. 

…Since his confirmation, the Attorney General has been clear, through both his conduct and a series of inflammatory and biased statements, about his plan to use the power of his office to coerce firearms companies to adopt his policy preferences with respect to the Second Amendment. To that end, he publicly boasted at a March 12, 2019 press conference with antiSecond Amendment Activists that he intended to “turn up the heat” on gun manufacturers. Despite cloaking his agenda in the rhetoric of “gun violence,” the Attorney General’s singular focus has been limited to interfering with constitutionally protected activity and to reduce gun ownership by law-abiding citizens. For example, the Attorney General has been a fierce opponent of “open carry” and “concealed carry” policies, taking sides in the public gun debate by asserting that “[p]ublic carrying of firearms is dangerous to our residents and to law enforcement.” Further, the Attorney General has used the vast resources of the State to bring meritless claims, for the purpose of using the burden and cost of a defense as leverage to force his opinions on others. The Attorney General’s hostility to opposing views extends even to the courts.

S&W lawsuit

The intimidation campaign of the NJ Attorney General didn’t work on Smith & Wesson. They’re fighting back, and we pray that they will prevail. It is extremely clear that the NJ Attorney General believes his opinion is the only one and anyone who disagrees with him should be punished. Just like the rest of the liberals in the country at this time.

More lawsuits may be filed by the other gun manufacturers. The entire Smith & Wesson lawsuit is at this link.

*****

Featured photo: Cover of 2020 Smith & Wesson Catalog

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