Saturday, June 15, 2024

US prosecutors, other countries back Mexico’s lawsuit against arms makers

Two countries, dozens of state and district attorneys in the United States and several civil society organizations have filed briefs in support of Mexico’s US $10 billion lawsuit against U.S.-based gun manufacturers.

The Mexican government sued companies including Smith & Wesson and Sturm, Ruger & Co. in the United States last August, accusing them of negligent business practices that have led to illegal arms trafficking and deaths in Mexico.

The companies in November asked a Massachusetts-based federal court to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that it is not valid for a variety of reasons.

Their lawyers argued that they are shielded by the United States Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), a law that protects firearm manufacturers and dealers from being held liable when crimes are committed with their products.

Belize and Antigua and Barbuda on Monday filed an amicus curiae, or “friend of the court,” brief urging a federal court in Boston not to dismiss the suit.

Lawyers for those two countries argued that illegal firearms trafficking from the United States has a detrimental impact on people throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.

U.S. gun manufacturers “must not be permitted to hold hostage the law-abiding citizens of an entire region of the world,” lawyers said.

U.S.-sourced firearms are used in a majority of high impact crimes in Mexico. According to the legal news website law.com, half of all guns seized in Belize are traced to the U.S.

Twenty-five district attorneys and 13 state attorneys also filed amicus briefs in support of Mexico’s lawsuit.

A brief written by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and filed on behalf of states including California, Illinois and New York asserted that the PLCAA does not preclude Mexico from filing a claim against U.S. gun manufacturers.

The brief – also endorsed by state attorneys from Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico and Oregon – urged the court to deny the defendants’ request for the lawsuit to be dismissed.

Lawyers for Mexico also said in a filing on Monday that the PLCAA only bars lawsuits over injuries that occur in the United States.

A brief filed on behalf of district attorneys for San Francisco, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Queens County (New York) and Cook County (Chicago), among other cities, said that U.S. cities have been negatively affected by weapons trafficked illegally into Mexico. It said that some such weapons return to the U.S., where they are used to commit homicides.

“The defendant gun manufacturers send guns to Mexico, where transnational drug cartels use them to inflict violence on both sides of the border,” San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin said in a statement.

“These gun manufacturers are empowering the drug traffickers flooding our streets with fentanyl and methamphetamines. We must hold these gun manufacturers accountable for the devastating violence and harm they are inflicting on our communities,” he said.

“District attorneys across the United States are seeing their communities devastated by the inevitable effects of arming cartels: an increase in homicides, an unprecedented number of overdose deaths, families and neighborhoods torn apart by drugs and violence,” said Ellen Leonida, the lawyer who filed the brief.

“These are the real life consequences of gun manufacturers producing guns that they know will end up in the hands of cartels – and the reason that the district attorneys support Mexico in its efforts to hold the gun manufacturers accountable.”

Among the organizations that expressed support for Mexico’s suit were Everytown for Gun Safety, which advocates for gun control, and Giffords, which is dedicated to saving lives from gun violence.

“…The Mexican people deserve justice and an end to the flood of illegal guns that has been caused by the gun industry’s reckless, greedy business practices,” Giffords said on Twitter. 

With reports from Milenio, law.com and Reuters

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