Mexico Asks US Supreme Court to Allow Its $10 Billion Lawsuit Against US Gun Makers

Matthew Vadum
By Matthew Vadum
July 5, 2024US News
Mexico Asks US Supreme Court to Allow Its $10 Billion Lawsuit Against US Gun Makers
The U.S. Supreme Court in Washington on June 25, 2024. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)

Mexico urged the U.S. Supreme Court this week to let its $10 billion lawsuit against U.S. gun manufacturers for allegedly flooding that country with firearms proceed in the lower courts.

Although some gun control activists welcome Mexico’s lawsuit, gun rights advocates say the legal action by a foreign government is exploiting U.S. laws in an effort to cripple the U.S. firearms industry and weaken the Second Amendment protections Americans enjoy.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit allowed the case to move forward after it was dismissed by a federal district court.

The new filing by Mexico on July 3 comes after lead petitioner Smith and Wesson filed a petition with the Supreme Court on April 18 seeking to overturn the First Circuit ruling. Among the co-petitioners are Beretta U.S.A. Corp., Glock Inc., and Sturm, Ruger & Co. Inc.

In its brief, Mexico argues the First Circuit ruled correctly and that it should be allowed to move forward with its claim that the petitioners “deliberately chose to engage in unlawful … conduct to profit off the criminal market for their products.”

The circuit court held that Mexico’s complaint made a plausible claim that the petitioners “deliberately aided and abetted the unlawful sale of firearms to purchasers supplying brutal cartels in Mexico” and that that country suffered harm as a result, the brief stated.

The gun makers are wrong to argue that the prospect of them being held “liable for negligence and public nuisance” presents “an existential threat to the gun industry.”

The First Circuit’s decision came after a federal district court threw out the lawsuit on Sept. 30, 2022.

U.S. District Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV in Massachusetts dismissed the lawsuit that claimed U.S. companies were intentionally undermining Mexico’s tough gun laws by making “military-style assault weapons” that find their way to drug cartels and criminals.

Judge Saylor found that the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) of 2005 “unequivocally bars lawsuits seeking to hold gun manufacturers responsible for the acts of individuals using guns for their intended purpose.” The PLCAA was enacted to protect the industry from frivolous lawsuits.

But in January 2024, a three-judge panel of the First Circuit reversed, returning the case to the district court and allowing the lawsuit to proceed.

Circuit Judge William Kayatta wrote that the PLCAA places limits on the kinds of lawsuits that foreign governments may bring in U.S. courts for harm experienced outside the United States, but held that Mexico made a plausible argument that qualifies for an exception under the statute. The exception pertains to “knowing violations of statutes regulating the sale or marketing of firearms,” which is what Mexico accuses the firearms companies of doing.

In its ruling, the First Circuit pointed at the U.S. firearms industry. Despite strict laws that make it “virtually impossible” for criminals to obtain guns lawfully in Mexico, the country still experiences the third-highest number of gun-related deaths in the world, rising from fewer than 2,500 in 2003 to about 23,000 in 2019, Judge Kayatta wrote.

The spike in gun violence “correlates” with the boost in gun production in the United States that started when the U.S. assault weapon ban lapsed in 2004. Mexico claims that illegal gun trafficking into the country was driven largely by Mexican drug cartels’ demands for military-style weapons.

“For example, Mexico claims that between 70 and 90 percent of the guns recovered at crime scenes in Mexico were trafficked into the country from the United States,” Judge Saylor wrote.

In this “gun-violence epidemic,” Mexico has had to pay the cost of additional medical, mental health, and law enforcement efforts, and has suffered diminished property values, and decreased revenues from business investment and economic activity. The firearms companies make more than 68 percent of U.S. guns that end up in Mexico, or between 342,000 and 597,000 guns each year, he wrote.

The judge added that Mexico claims the companies are aware that their guns are trafficked into that country “and make deliberate design, marketing, and distribution choices to retain and grow that illegal market and the substantial profits that it produces.” Mexico argues the companies design their firearms as military-style weapons to cater to the drug cartels.

In the new brief, Mexico argues that the gun makers’ petition to the Supreme Court is premature.

Several legal issues, including jurisdiction, have yet to be resolved by the district court, and this would be followed by evidence-gathering and possibly a trial and appeal, the brief states.

“Petitioners’ challenges are best addressed on a developed factual record, if it proves necessary to address them at all. That is why this Court routinely denies petitions seeking review of a suit at such an early stage.”

On the other side, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and 26 other federal lawmakers previously urged the Supreme Court to grant the companies’ petition.

“Mexico’s lawsuit is an affront to the sovereignty of the United States of America,” the lawmakers’ May 22 brief states.

“It has no place in federal court, and it attempts to dragoon American courts to subvert the policy determinations of the political branches of the U.S. Government,” the brief states, referring to the PLCAA.

Mexico is attempting “to impose its view of law, the right to bear arms, and liability protection on the American people,” the document states.

It is unclear when the Supreme Court will consider the petition in Smith and Wesson Brands Inc. v. Estados Unidos Mexicanos. At least four of the nine justices must vote to grant the petition for it to advance to the oral argument stage.

From The Epoch Times