Smith & Wesson Brands (NASDAQ:SWBI) is accusing New Jersey of going on an "unconstitutional fishing expedition" after it issued a subpoena in October for almost all of the gunmaker's advertising materials that go back decades.
In a lawsuit filed against the state on Tuesday, the leading firearms manufacturer asked a New Jersey federal court to block enforcement of the subpoena, which is supposedly looking for instances of consumer fraud through false advertising.
Smith & Wesson says the subpoena is not actually a "legitimate inquiry into any purported fraud, and instead targets mere opinions and other protected statements allegedly made by Smith & Wesson."
According to the complaint, New Jersey's attorney general is looking for marketing claims such as "gun ownership makes you safer," "carrying concealed firearms enhances your lifestyle," or "it is safer to confront a perceived threat by drawing a [f]irearm."
Smith & Wesson contends even if it has marketed firearms in such a manner, it would be constitutionally protected speech and the attorney general can't ascribe accuracy or fraud to matters of opinion. The gunmaker says those opinions are also held by large portions of the public.
Firearms manufacturers have been protected from lawsuits for criminal use of guns by the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, but the families of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012 were able to bypass those protections by suing Remington Arms for violating the state's marketing laws. The lawsuit was partially responsible for the gunmaker's second bankruptcy filing in as many years.
Gun sales are at record levels this year as civil unrest continues throughout the country and people look to firearms to protect themselves and their families.