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McKeon, Atkins & Jasey Bill to Empower NJ Attorney General to Pursue Public Nuisance Violations Arising from the Sale or Marketing of Firearms Heads to Governor

Gun violence, which leads to more than 100 deaths per day across the country, is a persistent public health crisis affecting many lives in New Jersey communities. Gun trafficking and the proliferation of straw purchasing are major drivers of crime and undermine efforts to institute strong gun laws nationwide.

To provide the Attorney General greater authority to pursue the culpability of the gun industry in certain cases, the full Assembly on Wednesday approved legislation allowing the Attorney General to seek legal redress when firearms manufacturers, retail dealers, and other gun industry members may have knowingly or recklessly taken actions endangering the safety and health of New Jersey residents. The bill—sponsored by Assembly Democrats John McKeon, Reginald Atkins, and Mila Jasey—passed by a vote of 44-32.

“In New Jersey, almost 80 percent of guns used in crimes are originally purchased outside of the state. The gun industry has made little effort to help stem the flow of guns to the illegal market through gun shows, flea markets, straw purchasers, and theft,” said Assemblyman McKeon (D-Essex, Morris). ”The industry, essentially, has not taken responsibility for its part in the increasing gun violence and its influence through product marketing. Gun violence is a public health threat. New Jersey must have the ability to seek appropriate remedies against members of the gun industry who knowingly or recklessly endanger the public health and safety. No one should get a pass when lives are on the line.”

This bill (A-1765) would establish a statutory cause of action for public nuisance created or contributed to by the conduct of gun industry members that allows the Attorney General to address injuries to public health and safety and to seek relief, including but not limited to, abatement and other injunctive relief, damages, and attorneys’ fees and costs.

“Too many families in New Jersey have seen the impact of gun violence in their communities. While our law enforcement officers work tirelessly to hold perpetrators of violent crimes accountable for their actions, those responsible for manufacturing and selling firearms often go unpunished for their role in creating significant threats to public health and safety,” said Assemblyman Atkins (D-Union). “Members of the gun industry who have knowingly and recklessly put the public in danger deserve to see consequences for their actions.”

“Members of the gun industry who engage in activities that put New Jersey residents at risk must be held accountable for their actions. Senseless gun violence is far too prevalent in our society and gun manufacturers and sellers who put profits ahead of human lives only worsen the situation,” said Assemblywoman Jasey (D-Essex, Morris). “With this legislation, we are creating an avenue for the Attorney General to pursue appropriate remedies when members of this industry act in a manner that endangers public health and safety.”

Having also passed the full Senate 24-16, the bill now heads to the Governor’s desk.