Gun Store, Gun Show Promoter Sued Under Public Nuisance Law

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(AP Photo/Philip Kamrass, File)

New Jersey’s anti-gun Attorney General has been busy this week. My colleague John Petrolino will have an update on Matthew Platkin’s latest attempt to enforce the state’s post-Bruen carry restrictions later today, but in addition to targeting lawful gun owners the AG is also going after gun sellers. On Tuesday Platkin announced he’s using one of the state’s newest gun control laws to sue a Garden State gun store and a Pennsylvania gun show promoter.

In July of last year, Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill empowering the Attorney General’s office to authorizes the Attorney General to sue gun industry members that contribute to a public nuisance in New Jersey through “unlawful or unreasonable conduct, or that fail to maintain reasonable controls, relating to their sale, manufacturing, distribution, importing, or marketing of gun-related products.” Now Platkin says a Morris County gun store should be held to account for being the victim of a burglary, while he’s accusing Eagle Shows and the company JSD Supply (both owned by the same individual) of “targeting the sale of ghost gun products to New Jersey residents” by holding gun shows in eastern Pennsylvania and having the audacity of advertising the shows in New Jersey.

Two men have been charged with breaking in to FSS Armory back in January of this year and stealing 20 firearms, but Platkin says the store’s owner should be held responsible as well because of how he allegedly stored his products.

Sometime before 2 a.m., a surveillance camera captured a crew arriving in a car that had been reported stolen three days prior, smashing a “poorly secured ground-floor window” and removing 20 guns “that were sitting within arm’s reach,” according to a copy of the complaint.
Authorities later arrested a Newark man, Luis Martinez, who was sentenced to 11 years in prison in November for his role in the scheme. An accused accomplice, Leila Acevedo, was charged in September and is awaiting trial, court records show.
The investigation is ongoing because authorities haven’t tracked down all the burglars — or all the guns.
Some of the firearms have turned up, records show. Just hours after the burglary, individuals “matching the description” of the burglars, driving the same stolen car, held up a jewelry store in Passaic County, “apparently using the guns they stole from FSS Armory,” the complaint said.
Within a few weeks, the stolen guns “passed from the burglars to others who have been formally charged with the selling of guns and narcotics,” according to the complaint.
A Ruger rifle was seized by police after a controlled drug buy in Queens, New York on Jan. 17. A Taurus pistol was found on the floor of an illegal nightclub in Paterson during a Jan. 28 sweep by police. Months later, an investigation by authorities in New York City led them to three New Jersey suspects who allegedly sold four shotguns and a pistol, records show.
The state’s lawsuit accuses FSS Armory of violating state laws requiring guns be secured overnight and prohibiting them from being stored near a window or somewhere they can be seen from outside.

If Platkin can prove the gun store wasn’t abiding by the state’s storage laws, he might have a case… but he also wouldn’t need to sue them in civil court. When it comes to Eagle Shows, however, it’s hard to accuse the promoter of violating New Jersey law when the gun shows in question took place in Pennsylvania. Instead, Platkin argues that Eagle Shows is luring New Jersey residents to cross state lines in order to purchase “ghost guns.”

Ravi Ramanathan, the head of the New Jersey SAFE Office, said Vinroe’s businesses specifically courted New Jersey customers knowing that the firearms they sold were illegal in the Garden State “without background checks or other reasonable controls.”
“This behavior must stop,” he said.

First of all, we’re not talking about completed firearms. If we were, then JSD Supply would be putting every buyer through a background check, as required by federal law. What the company is selling are incomplete frames and receivers that, when finished, are considered firearms under the Gun Control Act. New Jersey may have made possession of those items illegal, but if Eagle Shows and JSD Supply aren’t violating any laws then I don’t know why they would be held culpable for any New Jersey residents who purchased their products.

The civil suits are the first to be filed under the state’s public nuisance law, which will almost certainly trigger a legal challenge to the law itself. The National Shooting Sports Foundation had previously filed a lawsuit but it was rejected by a federal judge who argued that the filing was premature because no one had yet been sued under the statute. Now that Platkin has launched his civil litigation the NSSF’s litigation is ripe for another go, and Eagle Shows, JSD Supply, and FSS Armory may file lawsuits of their own in order to halt the state’s attack on the firearms industry and their individual businesses.

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