In the summer of 2021, Mexico filed a lawsuit in a federal court in Boston against several U.S. gun manufacturers, such as Smith & Wesson, Sturm, Ruger & Co, Barrett Firearms Manufacturing, Beretta USA, Colt’s Manufacturing Co., and Glock, Inc. Mexico argued that the gun makers engaged in reckless business practices that actively facilitated the illegal trafficking of their guns to drug cartels. The flow of military-style assault weapons to these criminal organizations allegedly increased the rate of many serious crimes in Mexico, such as murders, extortions, and kidnappings. Over 500,000 U.S. guns are reportedly trafficked into Mexico each year, of which about two-thirds are made by the defendants in this lawsuit. Unlike the U.S., Mexico has strict restrictions on private gun possession.
The gun manufacturers responded last November by asking the judge to dismiss the lawsuit. They argued that their activities are constitutionally protected in the U.S. under the Second Amendment, so they should not be punished based on a clash between American and Mexican cultural values. More specifically, the gun makers claimed that Mexico could not show that its increase in homicides and other violent crimes directly resulted from their business practices. They also asserted that the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act shields them from legal liability related to the misuse of their products. Mexico has argued that this law did not apply to its lawsuit because it applies only to injuries in the U.S.
As the judge weighs whether to dismiss the lawsuit, a group of 13 U.S. states has signaled their support for the position of Mexico. Last week, they filed a brief urging the judge to allow the lawsuit to progress. The states are California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, and Oregon. (The District of Columbia joined them.) Interestingly, the states argue that the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act would not preclude the lawsuit even if it applies to injuries outside the U.S. According to their brief, the plain text and legislative history of the statute show that Congress did not intend to bar actions against gun manufacturers and dealers that allege knowing violations of state consumer protection laws.
The nations of Belize and Antigua and Barbuda separately urged the judge to deny the motion to dismiss. They argued that violent crimes have risen in their countries as well, so the reckless actions of the gun makers have affected an entire region.
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