By BETHANY BLANKLEY | THE CENTER SQUARE
A Mexican government lawsuit blaming American firearm manufacturers for cartel violence is bogus, 20 Republican attorneys general argue. In a new brief filed with the First Circuit Appeals Court, the attorneys general, including Alaska’s Treg Taylor, asked the court to dismiss the case.
Last September, Chief District Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV, presiding over the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, dismissed Mexico’s lawsuit filed against several U.S. gun manufacturers. The defendants include Smith & Wesson Brands, Inc.; Barrett Firearms Manufacturing, Inc.; Beretta U.S.A. Corp.; Glock, Inc.; Sturm, Ruger & Company, Inc.; Witmer Public Safety Group, Inc., D/B/A Interstate Arms; Century International Arms, Inc.; Baretta Holdings Spa, Glock Ges.M.B.H; and Colt’s Manufacturing Company, Llc.
Mexico appealed and the case is now before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. A coalition of 20 attorneys general, led by Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen, have asked the court to “protect the law-abiding firearms manufacturers within their borders and to uphold the rights of their citizens to keep and bear arms.”
The Mexican government is seeking $10 billion in damages for cartel violence in a country where guns can only be purchased legally at one gun store in Mexico City run by the Mexican Army. In 2018, the store sold 38 firearms on average, a day, compared to an estimated 580 weapons smuggled into Mexico from the U.S., the Los Angeles Times reported.
Mexico’s lawsuit isn’t a new claim. In 2016, the former Mexican president also argued that cartel firearm trafficking was “strengthening the cartels and other criminal organizations that create violence in Mexico,” the Times reported.
Law enforcement officials have explained to The Center Square that Mexican cartel violence is perpetrated through the illegal purchasing and trafficking of firearms, largely financed through human and drug trafficking and smuggling across the U.S.-Mexico border. People and drugs are trafficked and smuggled north; illegal weapons, cash and other contraband move south, officials have explained.
The AGs argue, “Mexico advances a legal theory that is unsupported by fact or law.
“On the facts, American gun manufacturers are not responsible for gun violence in Mexico. Rather, policy choices by the Mexican government, policy failures in the United States, and independent criminal actions by third parties are alone responsible for gun violence in Mexico,” they state in the brief.
“And on the law, even if Mexico could establish but-for causation between the manufacture of guns in America and gun violence in Mexico, intervening criminal actions preclude finding proximate causation between a gun’s legal sale and the harm caused by it,” they add.
Mexico claims in its lawsuit that after the 2004 U.S. “assault-weapons ban” expired, an increase in gun violence in Mexico occurred. The AGs argue Mexico’s homicide rate decreased in the three years after the ban ended.
“For the first nine months of 2019, Mexico had 25,890 murders – almost six times as many murders per 100,000 people as in the U.S.,” The Wall Street Journal reported, noting that the country’s gun control laws were among the most restrictive in the world and “most criminals” weren’t getting weapons from the U.S.
Even if Mexican cartels were using American-made guns to commit violence, American gun manufacturers aren’t responsible, the AGs argue. The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act protects manufacturers from liability resulting from criminal misuse of guns that they lawfully manufactured or sold in the U.S.
“The law was passed in direct response to lawsuits from anti-gun groups seeking to financially cripple the firearms market – just as Mexico is doing here, recycling the tactics of the American anti-gun lobby,” the AGs argue.
“The activity that Congress shielded from liability – the production and sale of firearms – occurred entirely in the United States and is protected from the criminal actions of third parties, wherever that might occur,” they argue, adding that the court should affirm the lower court’s ruling and dismiss the case.
Mexico claims that American guns are “among the deadliest and most often recovered at crime scenes in Mexico.” The AGs argue many of the guns recovered “were sold to the Mexican military or law enforcement and ended up in cartel hands as the result of military or law enforcement desertion.”
The AGs represent the states of Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
Most in the coalition previously called on the Biden administration to designate the cartels as Foreign Terrorist Organizations. In February, 21 AGs argued the cartels are “assassinating rivals and government officials, ambushing, and killing Americans at the border, and engaging in an armed insurgency against the Mexican government.” The cartels also “developed well-organized armed forces to protect their reprehensible trade from rivals and from the Mexican government” posing “a threat to our national security,” they said.
Since the Biden administration has not made such a designation, in March, several Republican U.S. senators filed a bill to designate nine Mexican cartels as FTOs.