Gun rights group targets new Illinois law against unsafe marketing by firearms industry

The National Shooting Sports Foundation sued Monday to have the law overturned, arguing it violates the U.S. Constitution.

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Assault weapons and handguns are seen for sale at Capitol City Arms Supply in Springfield.

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Days after Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a law aimed at “unsafe marketing practices” by firearms manufacturers and sellers, a gun rights group has filed a federal lawsuit arguing the measure is unconstitutional and should be overturned.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation filed the lawsuit Monday in the Southern District of Illinois, citing both the First and Second amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

“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 lawsuit states. “The Second Amendment protects commerce in arms.”

Pritzker signed the Firearm Industry Responsibility Act on Saturday during an annual conference of more than 2,000 members of Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action. The gathering was sponsored by Everytown for Gun Safety.

The law prohibits advertising and marketing that encourages “para-military or unlawful private militia activity,” and advertising to minors under 18 that uses cartoons, stuffed animals and clothing targeting children.

It also makes gun manufacturers and sellers liable in cases where firearms are sold to “straw purchasers” — where someone buys a gun for someone else — or to people who are prohibited under federal law from possessing guns.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation, which is also fighting the state’s ban on assault weapons, contends the law improperly “regulates commerce in and speech relating to arms — even when that commerce and speech takes place entirely outside of Illinois.”

“The state apparently thinks that laws restricting speech about firearms are subject to more relaxed scrutiny, perhaps because firearms are dangerous,” the lawsuit states. “But the Supreme Court has made clear that truthful speech promoting a lawful product or service is protected by the First Amendment, even if the product or service is known to have deleterious health effects.”

It adds that the law “provides no protection for manufacturers or sellers of firearms who are fully compliant with applicable law from being held liable for ... the criminal misdeeds of a third party.”

The lawsuit asks for an order halting enforcement of the law until its merits can be argued in court.

The foundation describes itself as a trade association “for the firearm, ammunition and hunting and shooting sports industry.” It says its 10,000 members include manufacturers, distributors and retailers of firearms and ammunition.

The lawsuit comes days after the Illinois Supreme Court narrowly upheld another state law that bars the sale of high-powered rifles and high-capacity magazines. Another challenge is pending in state courts, and the federal appeals court in Chicago is considering a separate lawsuit challenging the law on constitutional grounds.

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