US appeals court revives $10bn lawsuit by Mexico against American gunmakers

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The case had been dismissed by a lower-court judge who said that a US law prevented Mexico from suing Smith & Wesson Brands, Sturm, Ruger & Co and others.

The law, the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), gives the firearms industry wide immunity from lawsuits over the misuse of their products.

Mexico’s lawyers contended that the law only applies to lawsuits over injuries that happen in the US and does not protect the seven manufacturers and one distributor it sued from being held accountable for the trafficking of guns to Mexican criminals.

Judge William Kayatta, writing for the three-judge panel, said that although the law can be used to block lawsuits by foreign governments, Mexico’s lawsuit “plausibly asserts a type of claim that is statutorily exempt from the PLCAA’s general ban”.

He said that was because the law was only meant to protect lawful firearms-related commerce, but Mexico had accused the companies of facilitating illegal gun sales by helping the trafficking of firearms into the country.

The Mexican foreign minister, Alicia Bárcena, hailed the ruling as “great news” in a post on Twitter/X. The country’s US lawyer, Steve Shadowen, said it was “an important step forward in holding the gun industry responsible”.

“Those who contribute to gun violence should now face legal consequences, regardless of borders,” Shadowen said in a statement.

The gunmakers did not immediately comment on the ruling.

Mexico says that more than 500,000 guns are smuggled from the US into Mexico every year, of which over 68% are made by the companies it sued, which also include Beretta USA, Barrett Firearms Manufacturing, Colt’s Manufacturing Co and Glock Inc.

In its August 2021 complaint, Mexico estimated that 2.2% of the nearly 40m guns produced annually in the US are smuggled into Mexico, including up to 597,000 guns made by the defendants.

Mexico said the smuggling has been a major factor in its ranking third worldwide in the number of gun-related deaths. It also said it suffered many other damages, such as reduced investment and economic activity and increased spending on law enforcement and public safety.

The companies deny any wrongdoing. Their lawyers argue that Mexico’s lawsuit lacks any allegations that the gun manufacturers’ gun sales themselves did anything that would create an exception to PLCAA’s wide protections.

Source: The Guardian