US Court Revives Mexico’s Lawsuit Against Gun Producers

Published: 24 January 2024

27346389860 8f3775071c cAero Precision AC-15 (Photo: Tac6 Media, Flickr, License)

By Lieth Carrillo

A Boston appeals court revived Mexico's US$10 billion lawsuit against the U.S. arms industry on Monday, allowing the country to continue trying to hold gun producers responsible for facilitating the trafficking of their products to Mexico, thereby supplying drug cartels and other organized crime groups with weapons.

The Mexican government welcomed the ruling, stating that the First Circuit Court of Appeals "was very receptive to the sophisticated arguments presented by our country in defense of its interests and those of its people."

The case will now go back to the lower court where Mexico will try to prove the negligence of the companies and seek reparations for the damages. 

“The trafficking of firearms and the violence committed with them have a serious impact on the lives of our people and the development of our country,” the government statement said.

In 2021, Mexico sued several U.S. companies, including Smith & Wesson, Glock, Beretta, Barrett, Sturm and Ruger, claiming that they knew their weapons were being smuggled across the border and used by criminals in violent clashes with each other and with law enforcement. The defendants deny wrongdoing.

The Mexican government alleges in the lawsuit that the rise in gun violence in Mexico is linked to increased gun production in the United States. It claims that between 70 and 90 percent of the guns found at crime scenes in Mexico were trafficked into the country from the United States.

A lower court in Massachusetts dismissed the lawsuit in 2022 based on the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) from 2005. This law shields gunmakers from damages inflicted by the misuse of their weapons.

Mexico appealed the ruling, claiming that the PLCAA applies only to injuries in the United States and that it does not protect the producers from liability in this case.

The court ruled on Monday that although the PLCAA can be applied to lawsuits by foreign governments, Mexico's lawsuit "plausibly alleges a type of claim that is statutorily exempt from the PLCAA's general prohibition" because that law was designed to protect lawful firearms-related commerce. Mexico, however, has accused the companies of helping illegal gun sales.

“Combined, defendants produce more than sixty-eight percent of the U.S. guns trafficked into Mexico, which comes out to between 342,000 and 597,000 guns each year,” Mexico’s appeal says. “Mexico alleges that defendants know that their guns are trafficked into Mexico and make deliberate design, marketing, and distribution choices to retain and grow that illegal market and the substantial profits that it produces."