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Arizona court allows Mexico’s lawsuit against U.S. gun dealers to proceed

In a significant legal development, an Arizona federal court ruled this week that the Government of Mexico can continue its lawsuit against several U.S. gun stores and distributors, marking a critical step forward in international efforts to combat gun trafficking and its ensuing violence. This decision allows Mexico to pursue its claims that the defendants negligently provided firearms that they “knew or should have known” would end up in the hands of criminal cartels, thus contributing to the violence that plagues many communities in Mexico.

The court’s decision to reject the defendants’ motion to dismiss, based on a statute that offers immunity to the gun industry, underscores the gravity of Mexico’s allegations and sets the stage for a potentially landmark trial. This move follows closely behind a January 22 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, which also favoured Mexico in a similar lawsuit against gun manufacturers, including Smith & Wesson. Together, these decisions represent pivotal moments in the ongoing battle against negligent gun sales and distribution, highlighting the interconnectedness of gun violence issues across national borders.

Global Action on Gun Violence (GAGV), a nonprofit organisation spearheading efforts to address gun violence through litigation and advocacy, hailed the decision as a monumental step towards holding the gun industry accountable. Jonathan Lowy, president of GAGV and co-counsel for Mexico in the lawsuit, emphasised the importance of the ruling in the broader context of fighting gun trafficking and its devastating effects on communities in Mexico and beyond.

The lawsuit, initiated by Mexico in October 2022, challenges the practices of five gun dealers accused of facilitating the cross-border trafficking of firearms. U.S. District Court Judge Rosemary Márquez’s ruling affirmed that Mexico’s claims regarding negligence, negligent entrustment, and other allegations could proceed, while dismissing charges related to public nuisance and other areas. This nuanced approach to the lawsuit’s claims underscores the complex legal and ethical issues at play in the fight against gun violence and trafficking.

As the case prepares to move to trial, the implications for both the gun industry and international efforts to combat gun violence are profound. These legal battles not only seek justice for the victims of gun violence but also aim to create a more accountable and transparent framework for the sale and distribution of firearms. As GAGV and its partners continue their work, the outcomes of these lawsuits may offer new avenues for advocacy and action against the scourge of gun violence that affects communities worldwide.

As Dr. Iain Overton of Action on Armed Violence (AOAV), says: “This landmark ruling against gun stores and distributors is a beacon of hope for all those affected by gun violence and trafficking. It sends a clear message that no entity, regardless of its power or position, is above the law when it comes to facilitating violence through negligence. The courage and determination of the Mexican government to hold these actors accountable illuminates the path forward for global action. Together, we stand on the brink of a new era where justice for victims and responsibility from the gun industry are not just ideals but achievable realities.”