Federal Judge Rules That Mexican Government’s Lawsuit Against Arizona Gun Shops Will Proceed

Across two lawsuits in different federal courts, the Mexican government is seeking tens of billions of dollars in damages from gun dealers and manufacturers.

AP/Andrew Selsky
Firearms on display at a gun shop at Salem, Oregon. AP/Andrew Selsky

A lawsuit from the government of Mexico levied against Arizona gun stores will proceed, a federal judge says, after finding that it is “plausible” that the stores played a role in supplying weapons used to commit crimes south of the border.

The new challenge comes as another federal appellate court is deciding whether the government of Mexico can sue firearms manufacturers for damages due to the use of their weapons by Mexican cartels. 

Judge Rosemary Marquez ruled in the case Estados Unidos Mexicanos v. Diamondback Shooting Sports that Mexico’s case against the gun stores could proceed, finding it was plausible that the stores were not protected by a 2005 bipartisan law, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which grants broad legal protections to gun manufacturers and sellers when their weapons are used to commit crimes. 

The Mexican government says the five Arizona gun dealers “systematically participate in trafficking military-style weapons and ammunition to drug cartels in Mexico by supplying gun traffickers.”

Judge Marquez wrote in her 32-page decision that Mexico “adequately alleges that harms suffered by” Mexican citizens are “fairly traceable” to the gun sellers’ conduct in marketing and sales. 

The gun sellers argued that the PLCAA protections applied to their conduct, and that Mexico could not sue them not only because they are barred from facing civil liabilities, but because the law does not allow foreign governments to sue American firearms dealers.

Judge Marquez, however, writes that the lawsuit can continue because the sale of the weapons happened in America, and the location of the crimes being committed is irrelevant when those transactions occurred on American soil. 

Judge Marquez did deny some of Mexico’s claims, though, saying that the gun sellers did not violate public nuisance laws and did not engage in Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act violations. 

One of Mexico’s lawyers, Jonathan Lowy, who also serves as an advisor to Mayor Bloomberg’s gun-control organization Everytown, called Judge Marquez’s decision a victory for gun-safety advocates. 

“Today’s ruling is a huge step forward in holding the gun industry accountable for its contribution to gun violence, and in stopping the flood of trafficked guns to the cartels,” Mr. Lowy told the Tucson Sentinel. “We look forward to now proving our case in court.” 

This comes as the Mexican government is also suing gun manufacturers in the First Circuit Court of Appeals, alleging that their marketing and sales tactics have led to a flow of illegal weapons into the country, causing harm to Mexican citizens. 

Mexico’s lead attorney in the case, Alejandro Alcántara, told the Spain-based newspaper El País that he hopes the gun manufacturers will produce evidence in discovery that could help prove their marketing tactics were harmful.

“Not only will we have the opportunity to present our evidence, we will be able to ask the defendant companies to share their evidence with us,” Mr. Alcántara said. “That’s the kind of information we’re going to get in litigation. It could be a gold mine.”

The First Circuit case, Estados Unidos Mexicanos v. Smith and Wesson, was dismissed in September 2022 by the federal district court in Massachusetts but was revived by the appellate court in February of this year. Mexico is suing iconic American firearms brands such as Smith and Wesson, Barrett Firearms, Colt, and Glock’s American arm, among others.

The Mexican government’s lawyers claim that the business practices of these companies resulted in the “killing and maiming of children, judges, journalists, police, and ordinary citizens throughout Mexico.” Gun manufacturers adopted a “head-in-the-sand” approach to firearms sales and are “knowingly profiting” off of civilian deaths, they claim. 

Mexico is seeking $10 billion in damages in that case and an order to stop the manufacturers from using their “head in the sand” approach to marketing and sales. The government says the “flood” of weapons is “not a natural phenomenon or an inevitable consequence of the gun business.” Between 70 percent and 90 percent of guns at Mexican crime scenes were trafficked from America.

The New York Sun

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