20 State Attorneys General Oppose Mexican Lawsuit Against Gun Industry

The Mexican government and some blue state leaders are appealing the dismissal of a $10 billion lawsuit holding U.S. gunmakers liable for gun crime south of the border.

In a statement (pdf) released Thursday, May 19, 2023, Montana’s Attorney General Austin Knudsen said he is leading a coalition of 20 attorneys general to defend the Second Amendment and the firearms industry.

“American gun manufacturers are not responsible for gun violence in Mexico,” Knudsen wrote in the statement.

The Mexican government filed the lawsuit on Aug. 4, 2021. Chief Judge Dennis Saylor of the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts dismissed the suit in October 2022. According to Saylor, while he has no sympathy for gun runners and drug dealers, the Mexican government failed to prove the manufacturers were liable for any gun crime.

In its initial complaint, Mexico claimed that 70 to 90 percent of guns recovered from Mexican crime scenes come from the United States. Of those, most were manufactured by the companies named in the lawsuit: Smith & Wesson, Ruger, Glock, Colt, Century Arms, and Beretta.

Epoch Times Photo
Epoch Times Photo
Mexican soldiers leave the scene of a crime where a man was killed by suspected cartel violence in downtown Tijuana, Mexico, on April 21, 2019. (Guillermo Arias/AFP via Getty Images)

Also named were Barrett, manufacturer of a .50 caliber sniper rifle, and Boston-based wholesaler Interstate Arms.

The Mexican government has appealed the dismissal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

According to the lawsuit, “Defendants design, market, distribute and sell guns in ways they know routinely arm the drug cartels in Mexico. Defendants use reckless and corrupt gun dealers and dangerous and illegal sales practices that the cartels rely on to get their guns.”

Mark Oliva, Managing Director of Public Affairs for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, The Firearm Industry Trade Association, said the suit would fail again because it has no basis in the law.

“The facts of the case haven’t changed. The case was previously dismissed because Mexico failed to make a claim, and the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) still applies,” Oliva wrote in an email to The Epoch Times.

Epoch Times Photo
Epoch Times Photo
Demonstrators gather for a Second Amendment rally at the Washington State Capitol in Olympia, Washington, on March 20, 2021. (David Ryder/Getty Images)

Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin agreed. He said he joined Knudsen and the other state lawyers to protect Americans’ Second Amendment rights.

“This lawsuit is part of a broad strategy by anti-gun activists to try and shut down firearms manufacturing. Congress passed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act to protect American businesses from these kinds of frivolous lawsuits,” Griffin wrote in an email to The Epoch Times.

According to politicians in California, Massachusetts, New York, Minnesota, and others that joined Mexico in its lawsuit, the PLCAA gives gun makers special protection that other businesses don’t have.

In their amicus brief, the attorneys general point out that many products can be harmful, but manufacturers are liable only for deaths or injuries from defective products. Firearms manufacturers are no different.

“Before PLCAA’s enactment, no high court in the United States found gun manufacturers liable for the criminal acts of third parties. PLCAA simply codified this existing causation standard to protect gun manufacturers from the expense of litigating meritless tort cases and from tort law innovations targeting the gun industry,” the brief reads.

In this file photo, Mexican police gather at an early morning murder, one of numerous murders over a 24 hour period, on March 26, 2010 in Juarez, Mexico. Violent clashes between police and gunmen from drug cartels claimed 22 lives Tuesday across Mexico’s Michoacan state. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
In this file photo, Mexican police gather at an early morning murder, one of numerous murders over a 24 hour period, on March 26, 2010 in Juarez, Mexico. Violent clashes between police and gunmen from drug cartels claimed 22 lives Tuesday across Mexico’s Michoacan state. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
In this file photo, Mexican police gather at an early morning murder in Juarez, Mexico, one of numerous murders over a 24-hour period, on March 26, 2010.  (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Oliva agreed.

“That law prohibits frivolous lawsuits that would seek to assign the blame for the criminal actions of remote third parties to manufacturers of lawfully-made and lawfully-sold products,” Oliva wrote in his email.

In the lawsuit, Mexico tries to connect the expiration of the “assault weapons ban” in 2004 with the rise in violence. Still, Knudsen claimed the homicide rate in Mexico decreased after the ban. In his statement, he wrote that the real driver of gun violence was the government’s crackdown on drug crime in 2006.

This, combined with powerful drug cartels protected by corrupt officials, set the stage for the following bloody years.

“The crackdown led to widespread killing and cartels conducting ‘social terrorism’ by killing and kidnapping children until Mexican officials left their territory. Homicides related to the drugs more than doubled, and Mexico’s total homicide rate increased by 57 percent from 2007 to 2008 alone,” Knudsen’s statement reads.

In the amicus brief, the attorneys general make clear that gun makers bear no responsibility for Mexico’s corrupt officials and criminal elements.

“Mexico’s lawsuit rests on a legal theory that is unsupported by fact or law. This Court should affirm the district court and dismiss all claims against Defendants,” the brief reads.

In addition to Arkansas and Montana, attorneys general from Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming, are part of the amicus brief.

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