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May 12, 2017

Legal Panel Warns Against Gun Industry Complacency


2017 FICC Panel
(From left to right) John Neiman, Shareholder & Appellate Group Chair, Maynard, Cooper & Gale. P.C., Daniel Wilson, Managing Partner Maynard, Cooper & Gale. P.C., Lawrence Keane, NSSF senior vice president and general counsel, and U.S. Sen. Luther Strange (R-Ala.) offered perspectives to the legal challenges the firearms industry might expect at the 2017 Firearms Industry Compliance Conference cosponsored by the National Shooting Sports Foundation and Orchid Advisors.

The storm clouds are on the horizon. That’s the warning from a panel of four legal experts with years of experience representing the firearms industry and defending the Second Amendment.

The message was aimed at industry executives attending the 2017 Firearms Industry Compliance Conference (FICC) cosponsored by the National Shooting Sports Foundation and Orchid Advisors. The panel included U.S. Sen. Luther Strange (R-Ala.), Lawrence Keane, NSSF senior vice president and general counsel; Daniel Wilson, office managing partner, Maynard, Cooper & Gale. P.C., and John Neiman, shareholder & appellate group chair, Maynard, Cooper & Gale. P.C.

Prior to his appointment as senator, Sen. Strange was Alabama’s attorney general. All members of the panel have been actively involved in defending the rule of law, the Second Amendment and the rights of firearms industry members to engage in the lawful commerce of arms. Their warning to gun companies: Now is not the time to let down their guard.

“It all boils down to protecting the Constitution,” Sen. Strange said. “We have people who are pushing novel legal theories that distort well established law to establish new and creative ways to impose liability on industry members. They are pursuing a public policy that says guns are the problem. They’re totally neglecting mental health or gang violence. Lawful gun owners are not the problem.”

Wilson said that despite a Congress and administration that respects the Second Amendment and appreciates the firearms industry, the opposition remains active. He warned that former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg already promised $25 million in his continued campaign against gun rights. Large international law firms with more than 255 global offices and 14,000 lawyers are being brought on.

“They’re really going to do anything they can to attack the gun industry itself,” Wilson explained.

The arguments have already been previewed. They are beginning to espouse illegitimate constitutional claims that the lawful commerce in firearms that are subsequently misused by criminals somehow violates a vague and un-enumerated constitutional right of crime victims given rise to liability industry members. Protection against the presence of even legally owned firearms will be pitched as a civil right.

“They will try to flip the dynamic,” Neiman said. “They will claim the Second Amendment is an infringement of their rights. But the truth is the firearms industry is on the side of civil rights.”

The good news is there are legal experts and elected leaders who are dedicated to protecting legal gun ownership. Sen. Strange pointed out that there was a coalition of 29 attorneys general who pushed back against Obama administration overreach. Fellow sportsman, Justice Neil Gorsuch, who is an originalist, is now on the Supreme Court bench as the Trump administration looks to fill as many as 125 vacancies in federal courts.

“That will be of generational significance for the Second Amendment,” Sen. Strange said.

Along with that, the generation of gun owners today is becoming more reflective of the changing face of America. Keane pointed out that 25 percent of gun customers are now first-time buyers. Women gun owners have increased by 60 percent. Minorities are increasingly more represented in the owning community, as are members of the LGBT community.

“The stereotype of firearms owners isn’t true,” Keane added. “We’re actually winning in the long-term.”

Still, he warned that lawsuits brought forward by antigun interest groups and large international law firms, along with anti-gun attorneys general pose a serious threat for our industry.

“It’s regulation through litigation,” Keane explained. “Like the municipal lawsuits that began in the late 1990s, they want to bankrupt and shutter the industry and failing that to impose through settlements and court orders restrictions on the constitutionally protected lawful commerce in firearms unsupported by the American people and which they cannot pass through Congress.”

The defense against these coming legal attacks requires those in the firearms industry to get educated and get politically involved. Inviting elected leaders to our businesses is an effective way to show the firearms industry’s effect on jobs and positive economic impact on their communities. Gun companies also need to understand the effect of laws passed in others states and the effect on their business, even if they don’t sell a firearm in that state

“We need to invoke Ben Franklin,” Wilson explained. “‘We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.’”

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