Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Mexico says support growing for lawsuit against US gunmakers

An appeal filed by Mexico’s Foreign Ministry (SRE) challenging the dismissal of its lawsuit against U.S. gun manufacturers has received numerous declarations of support.

The SRE submitted the appeal on March 14, challenging the dismissal of the case by the District Court of Boston in October 2022, in which the judge cited U.S. law that protects gun manufacturers from lawsuits when their products are used for their intended purpose.

The smuggling of guns such as these, seized in Nogales, Arizona is common — and Mexico wants manufacturers to take responsibility. (@CBPPortDirNOG/Twitter)

By March 22 — the deadline for proponents of the appeal to submit supporting amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs — nine briefs had been filed in support of Mexico’s case.

The SRE said in a statement that the briefs’ purpose was “to state to the judges the relevance of the case; highlight the positive impact that a responsible arms trade would have on the United States, Mexico, and the world; as well as make a statement on the applicable law.”

It went on to list actors who had filed briefs, including:

  • A former U.S. Customs and Border Protection commissioner and U.S. police chiefs, who reported that U.S.-made weapons trafficked to Mexico have caused a security crisis on both sides of the border and fueled the current fentanyl epidemic.
  • Prosecutors from 17 U.S. states, who questioned the U.S. law granting immunity to the gun industry, as well as 24 U.S. district attorneys, who said that trafficked weapons harm their communities by facilitating drug flows to the U.S.
  • Five Caribbean countries (Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Belize, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago), who said that U.S. weapons fuel violence and crime across the region.
  • International law specialists, who argued that immunity laws should not apply in this case, as well as Mexican jurists who argued that the principle of access to justice means the Mexican government’s lawsuit should be allowed to proceed.
  • Activists and victims of armed violence from both sides of the border, who argued that a responsible weapons trade is essential to stop the deaths of innocent people.

The Mexican government first filed the lawsuit in August 2021, demanding US $10 billion in damages from United States weapons manufacturers “who due to their carelessness and negligence, actively facilitate their weapons being trafficked to Mexican territory.”

After the Boston court ruled that gun companies were protected by the U.S. Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), Mexico deepened its legal arguments, saying that U.S. immunity laws should not apply to criminal damages in Mexican territory.

On Oct. 10, 2022, the Mexican government filed a second lawsuit in Tucson, against gun stores near the Mexico-U.S. border that it believes have traded negligently. On Oct. 26, Mexico requested to appeal the Boston court ruling, then requested an advisory opinion from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on Nov. 11.

In the briefs submitted this week, numerous U.S. prosecutors backed Mexico’s viewpoint, saying the PLCAA only protects gun manufacturers in the case of misuse by third parties, not in the case of its own misconduct.

“It does not eliminate all forms of accountability for gun manufacturers,” the brief said.

The brief from U.S. law enforcement officials made similar arguments. 

“U.S. (armament) producers have long been aware that their practices put weapons in the hands of traffickers who trade them across the border to Mexican cartels.”

A coalition of Mexican human rights groups and researchers who contributed briefs to the court stressed the “deadly” consequences of trafficked U.S. weapons, pointing out that gun homicides increased by 570% in Mexico from 1997 to 2017.

With reports from La Jornada, El Universal and Milenio

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