Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin today announced the filing of civil complaints via New Jersey’s Statewide Affirmative Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Office against FSS Armory, a New Jersey licensed gun dealer, and two Pennsylvania-based gun companies, Patriot Enterprises Worldwide LLC, a gun show company known more commonly as Eagle Shows, and Not An LLC, a ghost gun products vendor doing business as JSD Supply. The complaints assert statutory and common law claims against these defendants, including claims pursuant to New Jersey’s firearms public nuisance law.
SAFE is a first-in-the-nation office with the specific mandate of bringing civil enforcement actions against firearm industry companies to hold them accountable for violations of the law that harm the health and safety of New Jersey residents. Pursuant to that mandate, SAFE brings these civil complaints to chart a new path to combat the gun violence epidemic in New Jersey.
“New Jersey’s residents demand and deserve to live free from fear of gun violence, and that requires we do everything possible to get illegal guns off our streets and out of our communities,” said Attorney General Platkin. “Today’s action should make New Jersey’s position clear: Gun traffickers and their enablers will be held accountable when their actions place our residents in danger. Gun dealers and the firearms industry must abide by our laws or face the consequences.”
In the case of FSS Armory, located in Pine Brook, Morris County, the business stored stacks of guns within easy reach of a ground-floor window, even showcasing their location on its website, a decision that was both unlawful and reckless.
On January 6, 2023, individuals who had searched the term “gun stores in NJ” on a cellphone traveled to FSS Armory, broke the window, and grabbed 20 guns, including pistols, shotguns, rifles and a revolver. Most of the guns have yet to be recovered, and those that have been found were recovered at crime scenes or in the hands of criminals, including persons trafficking the guns on the black market in New Jersey and neighboring states.
FSS Armory failed to properly store its guns in violation of state law, which requires that guns be secured overnight and that they not be stored in any window or adjacent area where they can be seen from the outside.
The company’s failures put New Jersey residents, as well as those in neighboring states, in danger by allowing the weapons to be trafficked and placed in the hands of criminals and others not legally permitted to own a firearm.
In the other case, gun show operator Eagle Shows and gun show vendor JSD Supply, who share a common owner, have targeted the sale of ghost gun products to New Jersey residents.
Unserialized, untraceable firearms, commonly known as ghost guns, are illegal in New Jersey. However, JSD Supply and others continue to deliberately sell ghost gun products at Eagle Shows gun shows just across the New Jersey-Pennsylvania border, and Eagle Shows continues to directly advertise their shows in New Jersey.
For example, JSD Supply has sold or sells kits, frames, and other parts for making ghost guns, and does not conduct background checks or require buyers to demonstrate that they are not disqualified from purchasing or possessing a firearm. It boasts on its website: “The custom handgun you build from our … kit looks, feels and operates just like any other gun. But they don’t require a background check or a serial number.” This lack of point-of-sale controls allows felons and others who cannot legally possess or purchase a gun to easily acquire lethal weapons. New Jersey State Police has arrested numerous New Jerseyans returning from Eagle Shows with illegal products.
“Selling firearms is a serious business, and irresponsible behavior by gun industry members can have dire consequences for the public,” said SAFE Director Ravi Ramanathan. “The unlawful and unreasonable actions of FSS Armory, JSD Supply, and Eagle Shows have caused significant harms to our communities, and they must be held accountable.”
In both cases, the State is seeking monetary and punitive damages in an amount to be determined at trial. In addition, the State asks that the defendants pay accrued and future costs that the State and others incur as a result of the public nuisances these defendants have created. The State also seeks injunctive relief.
The Attorney General and SAFE are represented in both lawsuits by Assistant Attorney General David Leit and Deputies Attorney General Emily Erwin, Jonathan Mangel, and Giancarlo Piccinini of the Division of Law’s Special Litigation Section. In the lawsuit again JSD Supply and Eagle Shows, the Attorney General and SAFE are additionally represented by Ken Taber, Shani Rivaux, and Max Winograd of Special Counsel Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP.
On July 5, 2022, Governor Phil Murphy signed firearms public nuisance legislation (P.L.2022, c.56), which authorizes the Attorney General to bring lawsuits against 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. SAFE’s work advances the essential work of the Department to combat the epidemic of gun violence and to keep New Jersey residents safe.
Under Governor Murphy, New Jersey has pursued a multi-pronged approach to tackling gun violence across the state. That effort has included establishing Extreme Risk Protective Orders (also known as “ERPOs” or “red flag” laws) for gun violence protective orders; strengthening background checks; reducing the maximum capacity of ammunition magazines; banning ghost guns; and establishing a partnership with a coalition of states (New York, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut) to share crime gun data between law enforcement agencies.
Other initiatives led by Attorney General Platkin to combat gun violence include the creation of the Division of Violence Intervention and Victim Assistance (VIVA) and the expansion of the statewide Gun Violence Reduction Task Force (GVRTF). Among other things, VIVA provides grants and programmatic support for Community-Based and Hospital-Based Violence Intervention programs to support non-profit service providers in the development and implementation of violence intervention programming with a focus on gun violence. The GVRTF, created by Attorney General Directive, established an intelligence sharing protocol throughout New Jersey’s law enforcement community – inclusive of federal law enforcement partners. Through the GVRTF, law enforcement resources are focused on key violence reduction indicators based on real-time information and data.