13 Attorneys General Threaten Lawsuits Against Glock

We reported last week that the City of Chicago is suing Glock over auto sears, also known as “Glock switches.” The suit alleges that Glock willfully produces handguns they know can easily accept auto sears, thus converting them to fully automatic weapons. Chicago says Glock is engaging in “unreasonable and unfair business practices,” and has accused the gun maker of negligence and creating a public nuisance.

Glock Logo

Chicago is suing under Illinois’ new “Firearms Industry Responsibility Act,” which allows legal action against gun makers for criminal misuse of their products. That law is a direct violation of the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), so it should not pass muster in court. But some courts uphold unconstitutional laws all the time, and Chicago courts will be sympathetic to the city.

Meanwhile, Glock will spend millions of dollars defending itself against a suit with no merit. But that’s the goal since gun control advocates have changed tactics from outlawing guns to bankrupting gun manufacturers. Chicago’s motives are clarified by the fact that the suit is being handled by Everytown Law, a Michael Bloomberg organization. Everytown President John Feinblatt has expressed enthusiastic support for Chicago and confirmed his organization’s involvement. The ultimate player behind the suit may well be the White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention. You can read more about that here.

The Plot Thickens

Now, 13 attorneys general, led by New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin, have contacted Glock, informing the company of their intention to file similar suits of their own. Platkin begins the letter by citing the Chicago suit, then relating “horror stories” of criminals using auto-sear-equipped Glocks to wreak havoc among the public. He unironically invokes Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) data to support his points, while ignoring the fact that it’s ATF’s job to regulate auto sears and prevent their importation and use by criminals. Sounds like they’re doing a great job.

New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin
New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin. (dailyvoice.com)

Platkin continues, saying, “The City of Chicago’s lawsuit claims that your choices constitute violations of multiple sections of the Municipal Code of Chicago, including through the unreasonable sale and marketing of firearms and unfair business practices; the creation of, maintenance of, and contribution to an ongoing public nuisance; and negligence. If the City’s factual allegations are true, your conduct may also involve violations of our States’ laws. We will not hesitate to enforce our laws when they are violated.”

Serious Business

The Chicago suit is so weak as to be laughable were it not so serious. Platkin is taking a more sober approach. He has formally requested that Glock preserve documents dating from January 1, 1987, dealing with the following:

  1. The conversion of Glock semiautomatic handguns into automatic weapons, through the use of “switches” or similar modifications, including but not limited to documents related to the prevalence, use in crime or violence, or public safety impact of such converted Glock semiautomatic handguns;
  2. The design and development of Glock pistols with respect to their semiautomatic function, including but not limited to documents relating to their receptiveness to being made to function automatically, whether you took or considered action to reduce that receptiveness or the possibility of design changes or alternatives;
  3. Your knowledge about all state and federal laws relating to Glock switches and converted Glock machine guns, your legal responsibility as a manufacturer of guns that can be converted using Glock switches, and whether or not you complied with such laws and upheld such responsibility;
  4. Financial information relating to Glock pistols, including profit, manufacturing costs, and distribution costs, as well as the costs of developing and/or implementing any alternative design choices that were available or considered; and
  5. Any public-facing marketing or advertising related to Glock pistols, including any representations about their supposed safety, lethality, modularity, semiautomatic function, or the speed at which they fire.

Platkin sounds like he’s seeking anything indicating that Glock deliberately ignored, or even promoted, auto-sear compatibility and laws dealing with that subject. He’s looking for cost decisions that may or may not have kept Glock from implementing design changes to curtail that compatibility. Finally, Platkin appears to be looking to exploit the marketing loophole created by the Remington settlement with the Sandy Hook parents. Courts have been sympathetic to that argument, though Remington’s settlement precluded it from being tested at higher judicial levels. This threatened suit is far more dangerous to Glock than the Chicago suit. You may have also noticed that Platkin said nothing about pursuing and punishing the criminals who use these already illegal parts to make already illegal automatic weapons. It’s unsurprising, to say the least.

New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin with Governor Phil Murphy
Attorney General Matthew Platkin with Governor Phil Murphy. (thelakewoodscoop.com)

Platkin’s anti-gun credentials are well-established. He was a top advisor to New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, who has long been hostile to Second Amendment rights. Platkin will follow through on this and he will go after anything he might find.

What’s the Play?

Twelve other attorneys general added their signatures to Platkin’s letter. Those officials represent Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

That means twelve states, the District of Columbia, the City of Chicago, and Bloomberg-funded Everytown could potentially employ their legal and financial resources against Glock simultaneously. Glock is among the biggest boogeymen for gun control advocates. They would like nothing better than to sue them into oblivion.

The PLCAA may not be relevant if Platkin and others can show that Glock knowingly did something wrong, or even questionable. If willful negligence is evident, Glock will be wide open to devastating legal action. Make no mistake that the usual suspects will be lined up to do it, too.

Gaston and Kathrin Glock
Gaston Glock would probably fight this threat. What will Kathrin Glock do? (us.glock.com)

So, now it rests with Glock. Can they prove their good faith? Hopefully. If so, they’ll be out millions in legal fees, but they should be clear down the road. If there’s anything questionable or ambiguous, things could get a lot worse, even if those things were not deliberate. In that case, Glock will have a choice. They can either fight the allegations in court or seek a settlement. Neither option is good for gun manufacturers. A lost case sets a legal precedent. A settlement opens a loophole that others will exploit, looking for more money. Both of those outcomes will affect manufacturers across the entire industry. The late Gaston Glock always stood up to such threats. But his recent passing raises questions about how the company might proceed.

The Chicago suit, frivolous or not, just sparked something much bigger. This bears watching. We’ll keep you updated.

William "Bucky" Lawson is a self-described "typical Appalachian-American gun enthusiast". He is a military historian specializing in World War II and has written a few things, as he says, "here and there". A featured contributor for Strategy & Tactics, he likes dogs, range time, and a good cigar - preferably with an Old Fashioned that has an extra orange slice.

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