Chicago Sues Glock Over Auto Sears

The City of Chicago is taking the next step in blaming everyone else for their problems by suing Glock. Mayor Brandon Johnson’s office says that “[T]he lawsuit alleges that Glock unreasonably endangers Chicagoans by manufacturing and selling in the Chicago civilian market semiautomatic pistols that can easily be converted to illegal machine guns with an auto sear – a cheap, small device commonly known as a ‘Glock switch.’”

Glock 19 pistol
Chicago and others are blaming Glock for the city’s violence problems. (glock.com)

Yes, you read that correctly. Criminals obtain illegal parts, usually from China, perform illegal alterations, and make illegal automatic weapons…but it’s Glock’s fault, despite marketing their products legally. All this in the strictest gun control city in perhaps the country’s strictest gun control state. A municipality whose city limits do not contain a single gun store. But, of course, this is the same city that routinely blames its gang violence epidemic on “lax” Indiana gun laws.

So, how can Chicago sue Glock? Does the city even have a case? Who’s really behind it? Does this action point to the future? Read on.

Chicago’s Legal Basis

Chicago can indeed sue Glock under Illinois state law. This is the first lawsuit brought under the so-called “Firearms Industry Responsibility Act,” which anti-gun Governor J.B. Pritzker gleefully signed into law last year. The law allows municipalities to sue gun manufacturers when criminals misuse their products to create mayhem. You know, like suing Ford or Chevy when a drunk driver kills someone while driving one of their cars.

“But wait a minute,” you may exclaim, “isn’t there a federal law preventing suits like that?” Yes, there is. It’s called the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA). It prohibits suits just like this. When Joe Biden and his political and ideological allies claim the gun industry is “immune” to legal action, that’s what they’re crying about. They’re wrong, of course. Firearms manufacturers are liable for shoddy workmanship or product defects that result in injury, death, or property damage. Just like every other manufacturer of any other product. But Biden and his crew know that. They’re just betting that you don’t know it.

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson
Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson once again deflects blame for his city’s violence epidemic. (chicago.suntimes.com)

Illinois lawmakers know it too. They’re also aware of the PLCAA’s prohibitions. But they decided to push their anti-gun agenda anyway since they knew legal challenges cost money. Especially legal challenges that go through the appellate courts and even to the Supreme Court. Gun companies will have to pony up millions of dollars, while the state uses tax money and state-employed lawyers.

Gun control politicians and advocates have been unable to outlaw guns, especially after the Heller, McDonald, and Bruen Decisions. So, they’re now trying to either bankrupt gun manufacturers through endless frivolous lawsuits or make it too expensive to do business. Make no mistake, this lawsuit is about costing Glock millions of dollars, and not just in legal fees, as we’ll explain below. And there’s some ominous thunder on the regulatory horizon as well.

Does Chicago Have a Case?

The sensible answer is “no.” How can a company making legal products, and marketing them lawfully, be liable for criminal acts by others? Especially since most converted crime guns are stolen. But the city is asking the court for relief under five municipal statutes it claims Glock has violated. I won’t address these in detail since they are patently absurd, considering they are built on the premise that Glock is deliberately providing weapons to criminals who they know will equip them with auto sears. I’ll only list each statute’s common title and, if necessary, note what the suit says the statute means:

Unreasonable sale and marketing of firearms

“Makes it unlawful for a business to engage in any act of consumer fraud, unfair method of competition, or unfair or deceptive act or practice while conducting any trade or business in the city, including any conduct constituting an unlawful act or practice under the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act.”

Unfair Practice

“Makes it unlawful for a business to engage in any act of consumer fraud, unfair method of competition, or unfair or deceptive act or practice while conducting any trade or business in the city, including any conduct constituting an unlawful practice under the ICFA [Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act].”

Let me address those briefly. Chicago is accusing Glock of fraudulent, unfair, and deceptive business practices by selling their lawful product according to established federal and state laws. Where is the fraud? Where is the deception? How is that unfair? It’s difficult to see how these statutes are applicable in any way. We’ll address that below.

Municipal Cost Recovery Ordinance

“Any person who causes the city or its agents to incur costs in order to provide services reasonably related to such person’s violation of any federal, state, or local law, or such person’s failure to correct conditions which violate any…law when such person was under a legal duty to do so, shall be liable to the city for those costs.”

In other words, Chicago wants Glock to pay for the costs incurred by their inability, or unwillingness, to control criminal activity in the city. Got it.

Public Nuisance

You get the idea.

Negligence

See below.

Glock switch on wish.com
“Glock switches” are sold on Chinese websites like Wish. They’re often Glock-branded, even though Glock does not make them. Even Chicago admits that. (wish.com)

What’s the Game?

As noted, these claims are absurd. First, they allege deliberate negligence and even criminal intent on Glock’s part. Chicago bases those notions on the following assertion regarding the illegal auto sears:

“Glock has known about this dangerous work-around for years. So prevalent is the practice of installing auto sears on Glock pistols that they are currently known as ‘Glock switches’ because they allow shooters to toggle between semiautomatic and fully automatic firing modes. Many auto sears are even sold with the Glock logo printed on them, even though Glock does not manufacture them. Glock’s willful decision to not take any meaningful action to address this problem in its sales to civilians—despite its awareness—is immoral, unethical, oppressive, unscrupulous, and unreasonable.”

“By choosing to continue selling and marketing its easily modified pistols to Illinois civilians, including to Chicago non-law-enforcement consumers, and refusing to implement simple changes to its pistol design, Glock has violated numerous obligations under municipal and state law, including by failing to institute reasonable controls and safeguards to prevent the unlawful possession of its pistols…knowingly creating, maintaining, or contributing to a condition in Illinois that endangers the safety or health of the public by conduct either unlawful in itself or unreasonable under all circumstances, and engaging in unfair acts.”

Okay, that’s a LOT of supposition. It looks like Chicago is throwing everything against the wall, hoping something will stick. It sure doesn’t look like there’s anything concrete there, including negligence. But let’s look at one more thing before we pull it all together because Chicago isn’t going it alone here.

Everytown and the Feds

You know that arch-gun controller Mike Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety is never far from frivolous lawsuits against gun companies. And, to no one’s surprise, they’re up to their eyeballs in this one too. Everytown President John Feinblatt announced it on X:

John Feinblatt X post

He also noted that the ATF is pressuring Glock to alter its industry-standard design. Predictably, Feinblatt got huffy when Glock declined to play his game.

John Feinblatt X post

And make no mistake that it is his game, at least partially. Gun control activists have their very own White House office. One of the deputy directors is a former Everytown operative. I’d bet a month’s pay that the White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention orchestrated the ATF’s communication with Glock, Chicago’s lawsuit, and Everytown Law’s involvement.

But the ATF has supposedly been cracking down on auto sears for almost two years. More than 40 members of Congress urged ATF to do so in April of 2022. Yet Chicago says that some 1,100 auto-sear-equipped Glocks have been found at crime scenes over those same two years. Sounds like the feds are doing a bang-up job.

What’s the Goal?

Bearing Arms’ Cam Edwards and YouTube’s Braden Langley have been on top of this from the start, and I think they’ve laid it out pretty well. If the ATF approached Glock like Feinblatt says, I can see two possibilities. First, they genuinely asked Glock to make certain design changes to make the auto sears unworkable. I’m no engineer, so I don’t know how feasible that is. But I do know that changing their entire product line, what with new drawings, testing, retooling, changing their processes, and whatever else, would be very expensive. Not to mention the interruption in sales. I doubt that the feds, Everytown, or the City of Chicago are willing to help offset those costs. In fact, they would see those costs as a feature, not a bug. Remember that gun controllers want to cost gun manufacturers as much money as they can.

White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention Deputy Director Rob Wilcox
White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention Deputy Director Rob Wilcox was previously an Everytown lobbyist. (House Judiciary GOP YouTube Channel)

Second, and I think this is far more likely, the Biden Administration is looking to restrict as many semi-automatic firearms as possible. Biden himself has said so many times. He has also shown his willingness to have the ATF enact federal gun laws without Congressional involvement. Using the term “readily convertible,” ATF can reclassify Glocks and other semi-autos as “machine guns.” Biden, Feinblatt, and the rest would like nothing better.

The Chicago suit, ridiculous as it is, may well be designed to force Glock to decide one way or the other. If they lose, or even fight back, Biden directs ATF to reclassify certain guns because of the supposed danger posed by auto sears. If Glock settles or agrees to change, Everytown opens the legal floodgates on gunmakers as they did after the Remington settlement. That will no doubt be directed from the White House gun control office.

Keep Your Eye on This One

The Chicago suit is ridiculous and is the very definition of a frivolous lawsuit. But looking deeper, it looks to be a cynical abuse of a state statute designed to bankrupt gunmakers. That the usual suspects took advantage of it is not surprising at all.

 

One hopes that a judge can see this for what it is and understand that it violates the PLCAA. But since the suit was filed in Cook County, which is pretty much the City of Chicago, I’m not optimistic. I’d bet that the mayor and all the other bad actors have gone judge-shopping and found themselves a sympathetic jurist.

This case bears watching. I think it could be a harbinger of future gun control efforts, especially if certain politicians can repeal the PLCAA, as many of them clearly want to do. I can’t see this suit succeeding on its merits, and I think the plaintiffs know that too. But it can still damage the gun industry and maybe open doors for further legal action against semi-automatic firearms and guns in general. I think that’s the play. 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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