People For the American Way Foundation

Biden Judge Throws Out Challenge to Washington State Law on Firearms Manufacturing and Sale

Biden Judge Throws Out Challenge to Washington State Law on Firearms Manufacturing and Sale

Judge Mary Dimke, nominated by President Biden to the Eastern District of Washington, dismissed a gun rights group’s lawsuit that tried to invalidate a Washington state law regulating the manufacture and sale of firearms. The March 2024 Eastern District of Washington decision was in National Shooting Sports Foundation Inc v Ferguson.


What is the background of this case?                        

Washington state enacted a law last year that focuses on the manufacture and sale of firearms. Specifically, it requires that firearms sellers and manufacturers establish and implement “reasonable controls” on their activities, such as not “targeting minors” or “promoting conversion” of firearms into illegal products like machine guns.  Enforcement of the law is through civil lawsuits by the Attorney General or private individuals.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) immediately filed suit in federal court, claiming the law violates the Second Amendment. NSSF is a “trade association” for the firearms industry, with “more than 10,000 manufacturers, distributors, and retailers” of firearms and related products as members.  Washington filed a motion to dismiss the case.


How Did Judge Dimke Rule and Why Is It Important?

 Judge Dimke dismissed NSSF’s complaint against the Washington law. She ruled that NSSF had not alleged the type of injury to its members necessary to have standing to challenge the statute. It was not enough, she explained, that the law would restrict sale of firearms, since the Second Amendment “does not independently protect a proprietor’s right to sell firearms.” Instead, she went on, it applies to “the right to keep and bear arms” by individuals, which is affected only indirectly by the statute.

In order for NSSF to challenge the Washington law, Judge Dimke wrote, it must demonstrate that members intend to engage in “sufficiently defined” conduct that specifically violates it. “NSSF has failed” to do so in its complaint, she stated, and thus does not have standing to challenge the law.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson hailed Judge Dimke’s ruling, which he explained will help ensure that “gun industry members face real accountability when their irresponsible conduct harms our communities.” In addition to its effect on Washington, the decision is also important because it provides another example of upholding a reasonable firearms restriction law, in this case aimed at firearms manufacturers and sellers.  The decision also serves as a reminder of the importance of promptly confirming fair-minded nominees like Judge Dimke to our federal courts.