U.S. judge rejects lawsuit against gun manufacturers, Mexico to appeal

A gun store in the United States. Photo: Proceso.

By: David Brooks, Correspondent | La Jornada

New York

The Mexican government’s lawsuit against U.S. gun manufacturers for their responsibility in nurturing the illicit flow of firearms used by organized crime in Mexico was dismissed Friday by the federal judge in charge of the case in Massachusetts.

“Unfortunately for the government of Mexico, all of their legal claims are prohibited by federal law or fail for other reasons,” Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV of the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts said in his ruling yesterday.

Judge Saylor stated that the federal law, known as the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), “unequivocally prohibits lawsuits that seek to hold gun manufacturers accountable for the acts of individuals who use them for their purposes” and there are no exceptions applicable to this case.

He argued that: “this court has no authority to ignore an act of Congress,” upon referring to the federal law that he cites as the basis of his decision.

The judge indicated that: “while the court has considerable sympathy for the people of Mexico, and not any for those who traffic arms to Mexican criminal organizations, I must follow the law.”

The 44-page ruling details the legal reasoning for this decision that, for now, nullifies civil legal proceedings against seven gun manufacturers and a wholesale company in their business: Smith & Wesson, Barrett Firearms, Beretta USA, Century International Arms, Colt’s Manufacturing, Glock and Sturm, Ruger & Co; and wholesaler Witmer Public Safety.

Mexico, the decision recalls, complains that 342,000 of the 597,000 arms sold by the defendants are illegally moved from the United States Unidos each year and that now Mexico occupies third place worldwide in deaths related to firearms; thus, it links the increase of violence to the corporate conduct of the accused. Therefore, the Mexican government formulated nine charges against the defendants.

But in the end the PLCAA prevailed, which grants broad legal immunity to manufacturers, distributors and sellers of arms, and protects these companies from civil lawsuits for the illegal use of their products in the United States.

Mexico presented its civil lawsuit against arms companies and a distributor in the United States om August 4 to the District Court in Massachusetts, arguing that the manufacturers deliberately facilitate the sale of firearms that end up in the hands of organized crime on the other side of the border.

The lawsuit sought both economic reparations for the damage and commitments from these companies to curb the illicit flow of weapons by assuming greater responsibility in the sale and commercial promotion of their products.

Mexico’s legal challenge was supported in court by six of the leading gun violence prevention organizations in the United States, state’s attorneys in 13 states and the capital, as well as dozens of district attorneys around the country, who joined the case in their capacity as “friends of the court. “


There will be a second stage: SRE

By: Arturo Sánchez Jiménez

The Secretariat of Foreign Relations (SRE) is Mexico’s Foreign Ministry. It announced last night that it will appeal the decision of the federal judge of the District Court in Boston, Massachusetts, who rejected the case presented by the Mexican government against the negligence of the US companies that manufacture, distribute and sell firearms, which facilitates their illicit traffic to Mexican territory. [1]

The Foreign Ministry said in a statement that after presenting the Mexican government’s arguments, the judge decided that the defendant companies enjoy the protection of U.S. law and that he is prevented from questioning the will of that country’s Congress, “even though the accusations in the lawsuit may evoke an empathetic response. “

The judge also said that “even though the Court has considerable empathy for the people of Mexico, and none for those who traffic weapons to criminal organizations, it must abide by the provisions of the law.

“This is the decision of the first instance in an unprecedented and courageous action by the government of Mexico to prevent firearms, many of high power, from causing violence in our country,” the SRE reported.

It added that: “it will appeal the federal judge’s decision and will continue insisting that the arms trade must be responsible, transparent and with accountability, and that the negligent way in which they are sold in the United States facilitates that criminals have access to them.”

It affirmed that the lawsuit “has received worldwide recognition and has been considered a watershed in the discussion on the responsibility of the arms industry in the violence that is experienced in Mexico and in the region. State’s attorneys and U.S. prosecutors, academics, civil society organizations and governments of other countries support the government of Mexico in this action.”

The SRE will continue acting to end the illicit arms traffic. “The civil lawsuit for damages against those who profit from the violence that Mexicans suffer passes to a second stage, in which the chancellery will continue insisting that the negligence of those companies seriously affects our country.”

Cover sheet of court filing. Photo: Proceso.

[1] According to a report in Proceso, Mexico’s Secretariat of Foreign Relations filed a notice of appeal with the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston on October 26. And, Mexico also filed a civil lawsuit a few days ago in the Federal District Court in Arizona against 5 arms dealers whom it accuses of knowingly selling high-caliber weapons that will end up in the hands of drug traffickers and organized crime.

Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada, Saturday, October 1, 2022, https://www.jornada.com.mx/2022/10/01/politica/004n1pol and Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

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