The Mexican government’s $10 billion lawsuit against American gun manufacturers has been dismissed by a federal court. The suit accused gun companies like Ruger, Smith & Wesson, Barret, Colt, Century Arms, Beretta, and Glock of undermining Mexican gun laws and enabling drug cartels.
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Massachusetts Federal District Judge F. Dennis Saylor roundly rejected Mexico’s claim that the companies’ lawful commerce contributed to arms smuggling which allows the cartels to all but rule the crime-ridden nation. Mexico ranks third globally in gun deaths, despite having some of the world’s strictest gun control laws.
The Mexican government also sought to blame US gun manufacturers for their declining economy, citing reduced investment and the need to expend greater resources on law enforcement.
The Mexican Lawsuit’s Wild Accusations
Echoing American gun control groups’ recent efforts, Mexico alleged unfair trade practices centered on advertising strategies. For instance, the suit claimed that, by using the “M&P” logo, which stands for “Military & Police,” Smith & Wesson incited users “to battle against the military and police.”
Saylor was having none of that. “The public is fully aware that the police and military use firearms,” he wrote. “An image depicting an officer’s lawful use of a firearm does not suggest to the reasonable consumer that they should engage in criminal ‘combat-like’ conduct. And the Court is unwilling to hold that the advertising of lawful conduct to sell a lawful product, without more, constitutes an ‘unfair’ act.”
Despite the lawsuit’s patent absurdity, Saylor cited American law as the primary driver of his decision to dismiss. Mexico’s arguments did not overcome the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. That law protects gun manufacturers from liability for “the harm solely caused by the criminal or unlawful misuse of firearm products…by others when the product functioned as designed and intended.”
Gun control advocates constantly claim the PLCAA wrongly shields gun companies from responsibility. In truth, it protects them from frivolous and ridiculous lawsuits like this one and others brought by gun controllers. It’s no coincidence that Mexico was represented by lawyers from the Brady gun control group.
Anti-Gun States Support Mexican Lawsuit
Twelve anti-gun state attorneys general signed a 26-page brief supporting the Mexican lawsuit. These include the attorneys general of Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, and Oregon, as well as the District of Columbia.
The brief argued that the PLCAA does not cover advertising that gun control advocates dislike. It’s the same argument that allowed the Sandy Hook parents group to successfully sue Remington out of existence. The same tactic is currently being employed against Daniel Defense, Ruger, and Smith & Wesson over recent mass murders in which the killer used their firearms. Mexico, as noted, is attacking the companies’ marketing.
Anti-gun politicians and gun control advocates often complain about gun companies’ “immunity.” They are referring to the PLCAA. Note that the PLCAA does not block liability for poorly made or malfunctioning products.
The Argument Against Mexico
The American gunmakers moved to dismiss, pointing out that the Mexican government “does not allege that the criminals in Mexico used, received, or purchased the firearms” legally in the United States.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation’s Lawrence Keane agreed, saying that “The crime that is devastating the people of Mexico is not the fault of members of the firearm industry, that under U.S. law, can only sell their lawful products to Americans exercising their Second Amendment rights after passing a background check.”
The Switzerland-based Small Arms Survey has demonstrated that the overwhelming majority of recovered cartel guns were “acquired from the Mexican military and police, poorly controlled government stockpiles in Central and South America, and the international arms market.”
The Mexican military controls the country’s only legal gun store, providing further evidence that criminal activity, not legal commerce, accounts for Mexican gun crime. Even the Mexican government focuses on gun smuggling instead of legal sales inside Mexico. It’s difficult to see how the court could hold gun manufacturers responsible for smuggling activity.
Keane said that “Mexico’s criminal activity is a direct result of the illicit drug trade, human trafficking, and organized crime cartels that plague Mexico’s citizens. It is these cartels that criminally misuse firearms illegally imported into Mexico or stolen from Mexican military and law enforcement. Rather than seeking to scapegoat law-abiding American businesses, Mexican authorities must focus their efforts on bringing cartels to justice. The Mexican government, which receives considerable aid from U.S. taxpayers, is solely responsible for enforcing its laws – including the country’s strict gun control laws – within their own borders.”
The Bottom Line
“While the Court has considerable sympathy for the people of Mexico, and none whatsoever for those who traffic guns to Mexican criminal organizations, it is duty-bound to follow the law,” wrote Judge Saylor in his decision. Saylor’s focus on the law, instead of the suit’s absurdity, makes the decision more likely to withstand the appeals process.
And Mexico will appeal the decision. Mexico’s foreign ministry released a statement saying that “This suit by the Mexican government has received worldwide recognition and has been considered a turning point in the discussion around the gun industry’s responsibility for the violence experience in Mexico and the region.”
Despite Mexico’s attempts to shift blame for their corrupt and ineffective system, American companies are governed by American law. International opinion plays no role in American legal proceedings. At least not yet.
Mexico has the right to appeal and really has nothing to lose by doing so. The Mexican government will likely continue to enjoy the support of anti-gun politicians like certain state attorneys general. They are quite happy to tie up gunmakers’ resources in legal defense. Likewise, the gun control organizations led by the Brady group. This case may go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.