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Mexico’s Lawsuit Against U.S. Gun Makers to Proceed

The First Circuit Court of Appeals has revived Mexico’s $10 billion civil liability lawsuit

On Monday, a three-judge panel for the First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Mexico’s $10 billion lawsuit against several prominent members of the gun industry can proceed, overturning a lower-court decision that had dismissed the case in the fall of 2022.

First filed in August 2021, Mexico’s lawsuit alleged that gun makers Barrett Firearms, Beretta, Century Arms, Colt, Glock, Ruger, and Smith & Wesson, and distributor Interstate Arms, had undermined the country’s strict gun laws and “design, market, distribute, and sell guns in ways they know routinely arm the drug cartels in Mexico.”

Further, Mexico had alleged that the defendants “know how to make and sell their guns to prevent this illegal trade; the U.S. government and a U.S. court told them how. Defendants defy those recommendations, and many others, and instead choose to continue supplying the criminal gun market in Mexico — because they profit from it.”

Gun industry immunity

In dismissing the case in September 2022, U.S District Judge F. Dennis Saylor wrote that the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) of 2005, which provides broad legal protections for the gun industry, “unequivocally bars lawsuits seeking to hold gun manufacturers responsible for the acts of individuals using guns for their intended purpose.”

But the First Circuit Court of Appeals reversed Judge Saylor’s decision, with Judge Wililam Kayatta Jr. writing for a unanimous three-judge panel that Mexico’s complaint “adequately alleges that defendants have been aiding and abetting the sale of firearms by dealers in knowing violation of relevant state and federal laws” — a “type of claim that is statutorily exempt from the PLCAA’s general prohibition.” In other words, the litigation can proceed.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the gun industry’s trade association, immediately criticized the ruling. Larry Keane, the NSSF’s senior vice president and general counsel, said, “We respectfully and proudly disagree with today’s decision and are reviewing our legal options. The government of Mexico should spend its time enforcing its own laws and bring Mexican criminals to Justice and Mexican courtrooms, instead of scapegoating the firearm industry for their inability and unwillingness to protect Mexican citizens from the cartels.”

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