Gun rights group files legal challenge to Illinois law inviting lawsuits against industry

(The Center Square) – Just days after Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a measure allowing lawsuits against firearms industry members for a variety of things, the law is being challenged in federal court.

House Bill 218 allows lawsuits to be brought against firearm industry members for allegedly making less safe conditions or for advertising to children, or for “unlawful” paramilitary or militia activity.

Monday, the National Shooting Sports Foundation filed a challenge to the law in Illinois’ Southern District federal court. The foundation alleges the measure doesn’t just violate the First and Second Amendments, it also violates interstate commerce and due process rights.

“None of that is consistent with the Constitution,” the lawsuit said. “The First Amendment prohibits states from punishing wide swaths of truthful speech about lawful products, even if the products are dangerous or the speech is unpopular. The Second Amendment protects commerce in arms. Numerous constitutional provisions prohibit states from regulating conduct that takes place wholly beyond their borders, even when that commerce has effects within the state. And the Due Process Clause prohibits states from punishing one private party for the conduct of another.”

NSSF also said the measure is “trying to resurrect the very kinds of lawsuits the [Protecting Lawful Commerce in Arms Act] was enacted to eliminate.”

“Under HB 218, state officials and private parties may bring civil actions against licensed manufacturers and sellers of firearms, ammunition, and related products for damages and other relief resulting from the criminal use of a firearm by a third party,” the lawsuit said. “HB 218 therefore falls squarely within the express-preemption provision of the PLCAA.”

Tuesday, United States Magistrate Judge Mark A. Beatty was randomly assigned to the case in the Southern Illinois federal court district. Beatty was appointed to the position in 2019 during the presidency of Donald Trump.

Just before House Bill 218 was signed Saturday, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul said the measure doesn’t target those who conduct themselves in a lawful manner.

“What this law does is clarify that the firearm industry like any other business must comply with the Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Practices Act,” Raoul said.

U.S. LawShield’s Kirk Evans warned of a bevy of lawsuits if the law is upheld.

“And those will just be on one-off individual one-on-one cases where we get rulings. Those could occur all across Illinois and in the federal courts too,” Evans said.

Alongside gun control advocates, Illinois Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, proclaimed the measure was needed so they could do something about violent crime.

“We are doing something about it,” Harmon said Saturday. “Here in Illinois at the crossroads of the nation we are bringing responsible, common sense laws that balance constitutional rights with fundamental safety.

State Sen. Neil Anderson, R-Andalusia, said Democratic initiatives have curtailed rights, not criminal activity.

“This is just a media headline. This is just to solidify the far left base and moving forward it’s just not going to work,” Anderson said.

NSSF is seeking the law be declared unconstitutional with an injunction preventing the state from enforcing the measure.

National Shooting Sports Foundation v. Raoul

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