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13 states and two countries throw support behind Mexican lawsuit against gun makers

Two Central American countries, 12 U.S. states and the District of Columbia are supporting a lawsuit filed in U.S. federal court by Mexico against gun manufacturers for allegedly marketing their products to criminal organizations.

Antigua and Barbuda, a Caribbean island state, and Belize, the only English-speaking Central American country, on Monday filed an amicus brief supporting Mexico’s claims. 

“Violent crime has gravely harmed [Latin American and Caribbean] nations and their citizens, especially in recent years. A substantial portion of this violence has been perpetrated using firearms unlawfully trafficked from the United States,” wrote attorneys for the two countries in the brief.

“Unlawful trafficking of American firearms must be curtailed at its source: the U.S. gun industry. The gun manufacturers and distributors from a single nation must not be permitted to hold hostage the law-abiding citizens of an entire region of the world,” they added.

The lawsuit’s defendants include gun manufacturers Smith & Wesson, Barret, Beretta, Colt, Glock, Sturm and Ruger & Co.

The Mexican government on Monday countered a motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed by the defendants based on the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.

“Defendants design and manufacture weapons of war, then market and sell them in ways they know routinely arm the drug cartels in Mexico,” wrote attorneys for the Mexican government.

“Defendants’ motion to dismiss the Complaint seeks impunity for this conduct. They deny that they help move their guns into Mexico, and they contend that, even if they do, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (“PLCAA”) precludes this lawsuit,” they added.

The PLCAA is a 2005 law designed to protect arms manufacturers and dealers from lawsuits when their products are used to commit crimes. The law has exceptions that allow such lawsuits if dealers and manufacturers can reasonably know their products will be used for a crime. 

The Mexican government argues dealers and manufacturers are marketing products specifically intending to violate local gun laws in the country.

In a separate filing, 12 U.S. states plus the District of Columbia also targeted the plaintiffs’ requests for the court to dismiss Mexico’s lawsuit, writing, “In seeking dismissal of the Government of Mexico’s claims, the defendants here, several gun manufacturers and one gun distributor, insist that Congress has erected an insurmountable barrier to traditional state law forms of accountability.”

“The Amici States—Massachusetts, California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawai‘i, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, and Oregon—have a strong interest in preserving the remedies afforded by state common law and by state statutes,” wrote the attorneys general of the states.

“We also have a paramount interest in preserving all lawful tools — including statutory and common law remedies for unlawful conduct — to deter gun violence within our borders,” they added.

According to the Mexican government, about half a million guns are smuggled from the United States to Mexico every year, and those U.S.-sourced guns account for nearly 70 percent of the country’s gun crimes. 

The lawsuit against dealers and manufacturers was the brainchild of the legal adviser of Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Alejandro Celorio, a diplomat who previously served at the Mexican Embassy in Washington. 

In an August op-ed in The Washington Post, Celorio described a series of bilateral efforts to stem the flow of weapons into Mexico, many with the cooperation of the U.S. federal government.

“But all the efforts of Mexico, and of the United States with its vast resources, have not been sufficient to stop the flood of weapons of war into Mexico,” wrote Celorio.

In 2021, an estimated 33,000 to 35,000 homicides took place in Mexico. From 2018 to 2020, there were more than 36,000 murders in Mexico every year.

Tags gun manufacturers Mexico Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act state attorneys general

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