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Illinois Attorney General
Kwame Raoul

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April 10, 2023

Coalition Argues That New Jersey has the Power to Curb Dangerous Industry Practices

Chicago Attorney General Kwame Raoul today led a coalition of 18 attorneys general supporting a New Jersey law to hold the firearms industry accountable. In an amicus brief, Raoul and the coalition argue that New Jersey has the authority to protect residents and public safety.

In 2022, New Jersey enacted a statute to hold gun industry members accountable for unlawful conduct when that conduct results in harm to the public. Under the law, the New Jersey Attorney General can file a lawsuit against a gun industry member when they knowingly or recklessly create, maintain or contribute to a public nuisance in New Jersey through the sale, manufacturing, distributing, importing or marketing of guns and gun-related products. Gun industry members can also be held liable when they fail to use reasonable controls and procedures regarding the manufacture, sale, distribution, importing and marketing of guns and gun-related products. 

“Attorneys general play a key role in protecting residents from unlawful industry practices,” Raoul said. “My office has used its consumer protection powers to hold the tobacco, opioid and payday loan industries accountable. Our enforcement actions have significantly changed industry behavior to protect Illinois residents. The firearms industry is not exempt from that same accountability, and that is why I filed this brief in support of New Jersey’s law.”

A trade association representing members of the firearms industry sued the New Jersey Attorney General, arguing that the statute is preempted by federal law and is unconstitutional. The U.S. District Court for New Jersey blocked the law from going into effect by issuing a preliminary injunction. In their brief, Raoul and the coalition are asking the appellate court to reverse the injunction.

Raoul and the coalition argue that New Jersey’s statute is lawful and benefits the public. As the brief explains, empirical evidence suggests a direct link between the harmful effects of gun violence and the irresponsible actions of gun industry members, such as dealers failing to enact reasonable controls to prevent straw purchasing or theft. New Jersey’s law serves the important purpose of deterring gun industry members from engaging in irresponsible practices that actively contribute to increasing gun violence and, where necessary, holds those who engage in such tactics accountable for their own actions. The attorneys general maintain that the law is not preempted by the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act – a federal law that limits civil remedies against gun industry members for harms caused solely by the misconduct of individuals who use firearms. The brief also argues that the law does not run afoul of the Dormant Commerce Clause.

The brief is the most recent step in Attorney General Raoul’s work to address gun violence throughout Illinois and across the nation. The Attorney General’s office created a state-of-the-art crime-gun tracing database for Illinois law enforcement called Crime Gun Connect. Raoul’s office also collaborates with local law enforcement to combat gun trafficking and has used the office’s jurisdiction to prosecute multi-county gun trafficking offenses. Additionally, the Attorney General’s office works with law enforcement agencies and prosecutors to increase awareness of Illinois’ red flag law and to address gaps in Illinois’ firearms licensing system. The office also continues to prosecute individuals who lie on FOID card applications.

The Attorney General’s office partners with the U.S. Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center (NTAC) to try to avert violence by hosting trainings for law enforcement officers, educators, religious leaders and other community members that are designed to prevent targeted acts of violence.

Attorney General Raoul has persistently advocated at the federal and state levels to strengthen regulation of 3D-printed guns and ghost guns. Illinois law now prohibits ghost guns, but the office continues to fight in federal court to help defend a recent rule closing the federal loophole. Meanwhile, the Attorney General’s office also defends cases pending in courts across the state challenging Illinois regulations of firearms. Nationally, Attorney General Raoul successfully filed and resolved a lawsuit to get the federal firearm license of an unscrupulous arms manufacturer revoked.

In addition to supporting law enforcement, the Attorney General’s office supports victims service providers around Illinois that offer trauma-informed services for crime victims and their families. Raoul’s Crime Victims Services Division administers a host of programs and services to assist survivors of violent crime. More information is available on the Attorney General’s website.

Joining Raoul in the filing the brief, are the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin