Monday, August 14, 2023

NSSF Challenges Illinois Over Gun Control Legislation Citing Constitutional and PLCAA Violations

Today, the NSSF initiated a legal action to halt the application of a particular law, contending that it breaches the First and Second Amendments, as well as the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.

The legal document highlights:

According to HB 218, any “transaction, production, import, or promotion of firearm-related merchandise” across the country might be viewed as breaching Illinois regulations. This can occur even if every state and federal guideline is followed, should an Illinois legal body later deem that such actions "compromised public safety or health in Illinois."

While HB 218 appears to be aimed at minimizing firearm-related risks to public safety, it does not specifically target the actual use or misuse of firearms. Instead, it focuses on the trading, production, and promotion of legal firearms and their associated goods. Remarkably, it can even affect commercial activities and discourse that transpire entirely outside of Illinois. The statute also bypasses traditional legal standards, paving the way for licensed industry participants to be held liable for actions committed by unrelated third-party criminals.

This approach is not in line with constitutional principles. The First Amendment protects against the stifling of legitimate discourse about legal items, regardless of their potential risks. The Second Amendment safeguards the commerce in firearms. Additionally, several constitutional guidelines prevent states from influencing actions that are entirely outside their jurisdiction. And, it's against constitutional norms to penalize one entity for the deeds of another.

Further complicating matters, this law is directly contradicted by federal legislation. In the past, certain governmental bodies attempted to utilize unconventional legal arguments to impose liability on firearm and ammunition providers when their products were misused. Recognizing the problematic nature of these lawsuits, Congress introduced the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act in 2005. This Act strictly prevents such lawsuits against firearm and ammunition producers or sellers based on the criminal or unlawful use of their products.

On the matter, the NSSF announced:

The NSSF, representing firearm industry stakeholders, has mounted a challenge against Illinois' overreaching law that threatens the industry's First Amendment commercial speech rights and seeks to regulate their activities nationwide. Following the governor's endorsement of the Firearm Industry Responsibility Act, the NSSF promptly responded with their challenge.

Lawrence G. Keane, NSSF’s Senior Vice President and General Counsel, commented, “The inherent issues with this law are not only its unsound reasoning but also the clear disregard it shows for constitutional rights. This legislation not only infringes on free commercial speech but also vaguely mandates 'reasonable controls' to counter straw purchases, all while sidelining the very industry that collaborates with regulatory bodies to prevent such illegal purchases. We firmly believe that such a constitutionally questionable law won't hold up in court.”

Illinois' Firearm Industry Responsibility Act ambiguously defines and criminalizes certain forms of commercial speech under the pretext of preventing appeals to minors. The law appears to be a veiled attempt by certain Illinois lawmakers to inhibit the lawful sharing of firearm safety knowledge and skills with younger generations.

Moreover, this legislation unfairly targets legitimate firearm manufacturers and sellers, holding them accountable for crimes committed by distant third parties. It proposes shifting the blame from the actual wrongdoers committing illegal purchases to the industry's stakeholders. This is even when all firearm purchases are mandated to go through stringent federal procedures. Collaboration between the firearm industry and federal agencies like the ATF already exists to deter individuals from such illegal acts. Penalizing legitimate businesses for the criminal intent of a few is an unfair approach.

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