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U.S. Court greenlights Mexico’s $10 billion potential lawsuit against gunmakers

In a recent landmkar development, the Mexican government’s $10 billion lawsuit against American gun manufacturers, including prominent companies like Glock, Smith and Wesson, Ruger, and Barrett, has been allowed to proceed.

This decision, made by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, reverses a 2022 federal court ruling that had previously dismissed the case based on the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), which granted immunity to these companies from civil liabilities in the U.S. The lawsuit argues that the manufacturers should be held liable for their firearms being trafficked in large numbers across the U.S.-Mexico border and used by drug cartels.

The appeals court, led by First Circuit Judge William J. Kayatta, concluded that the Mexican government’s claim is “plausibly alleges” to be “statutorily exempt” from the immunity provided by the PLCAA. The court’s decision also noted that the complaint adequately alleges the gun makers aided and abetted the unlawful trafficking of their guns into Mexico. This ruling has been supported by Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) along with prominent American gun control groups, with the U.S.-based Global Action on Gun Violence (GAGV) calling it a major decision. Jonathan Lowy, GAGV president and the Mexican government’s co-counsel in the case, said that this ruling is a significant step in holding the gun industry accountable for its contribution to gun violence and in stopping the flood of trafficked guns to the cartels.

On the other side, industry representatives like Larry Keane of the National Shooting Sports Foundation have disagreed with the decision. Keane suggested that Mexico should focus more on enforcing its laws and prosecuting criminals within its jurisdiction, rather than scapegoating the firearm industry for issues of national security and public safety.

The magnitude of the issue is highlighted by the Mexican government’s original suit in 2021, which alleged that 2.2% of the 39.6 million guns made annually in the U.S. are smuggled across the southern border. The defendants named in the case are thought to be responsible for between 342,000 and 597,000 of these trafficked guns.

This recent ruling is a pivotal moment in the discourse surrounding gun manufacturer liability and international arms trafficking. It challenges existing legal frameworks and opens up the potential for holding gun manufacturers accountable for the indirect consequences of their products’ distribution and use, particularly in terms of international arms trafficking and its impact on foreign nations.

As Dr Iain Overton of Action on Armed Violence and author of Gun, Baby, Gun, said of the announcement “This ruling is a potentially monumental step towards global accountability in the arms trade. It could pave the way for a more responsible and regulated gun industry; we celebrate this small step forward in the fight against global armed violence. AOAV submitted evidence to the Mexican government to support its fight and we hope our research helped in this journey.”

The progression of this case will be closely watched for its potential effects on the gun industry, international law, and the global fight against armed violence and illegal arms trafficking. The case’s implications extend beyond the immediate legal battle and into broader considerations of policy reform, international collaboration, and public awareness regarding responsible gun manufacturing and arms control.