Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen is leading a coalition of 20 states’ attorneys general to defend the Second Amendment and the U.S. firearms industry against a lawsuit by the Mexican government that seeks to hold the gunmakers liable for gun crime south of the U.S. border.
The Mexican government is seeking $10 billion filed in a civil lawsuit against several major U.S. firearms manufacturers, saying these companies are responsible for the violence in their country.
In an amicus brief filed on May 19 (pdf), Knudsen said the AGs seek to protect the law-abiding firearms manufacturers within their borders and to uphold the rights of their citizens to keep and bear arms.
“Mexico advances a legal theory that is unsupported by fact or law. American gun manufacturers are not responsible for gun violence in Mexico,” the brief states. “Rather, policy choices by the Mexican government, policy failures in the United States, and independent criminal actions by third parties are alone responsible for gun violence in Mexico.”
In addition to Arkansas and Montana, attorneys general from Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming are part of the amicus brief.
Chief Judge Dennis Saylor of the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts initially dismissed the suit in October 2022. According to Saylor, while he has no sympathy for gun runners and drug dealers, the Mexican government failed to prove the manufacturers were liable for any gun crime.
The Mexican government appealed the dismissal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit.
In its complaint, Mexico claimed that 70 to 90 percent of guns recovered from Mexican crime scenes come from the United States. Of those, most were manufactured by the companies named in the lawsuit: Smith & Wesson, Ruger, Glock, Colt, Century Arms, and Beretta.
Also named were Barrett, manufacturer of a .50 caliber sniper rifle, and Boston-based wholesaler Interstate Arms.
According to the lawsuit: “Defendants design, market, distribute and sell guns in ways they know routinely arm the drug cartels in Mexico. Defendants use reckless and corrupt gun dealers and dangerous and illegal sales practices that the cartels rely on to get their guns.”
Mark Oliva, public affairs director of the firearms trade group National Shooting Sports Foundation, predicts the suit would fail again because it has no basis in the law.
“The facts of the case haven’t changed. The case was previously dismissed because Mexico failed to make a claim, and the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) still applies,” Oliva wrote in an email to The Epoch Times.
Arkansas AG Tim Griffin agreed. He said he joined Knudsen and the other state AGs to protect Americans’ Second Amendment rights.
“This lawsuit is part of a broad strategy by anti-gun activists to try and shut down firearms manufacturing,” Griffin wrote in an email to The Epoch Times. “Congress passed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act to protect American businesses from these kinds of frivolous lawsuits.”
According to politicians in California, Massachusetts, New York, Minnesota, and others that joined Mexico in its lawsuit, the PLCAA gives gunmakers special protection that other businesses don’t have.
In their brief, the AGs point out that many products can be harmful, but manufacturers are liable only for deaths or injuries from defective products. Firearms manufacturers are no different.
“Before PLCAA’s enactment, no high court in the United States found gun manufacturers liable for the criminal acts of third parties. PLCAA simply codified this existing causation standard to protect gun manufacturers from the expense of litigating meritless tort cases and from tort law innovations targeting the gun industry,” the brief reads.
Oliva agreed. “That law prohibits frivolous lawsuits that would seek to assign the blame for the criminal actions of remote third parties to manufacturers of lawfully-made and lawfully-sold products,” he said.
In the lawsuit, Mexico tries to connect the expiration of the “assault weapons ban” in 2004 with the rise in violence. Still, Knudsen claimed the homicide rate in Mexico decreased after the ban. In his statement, he wrote that the real driver of gun violence was the government’s crackdown on drug crime in 2006.
This, combined with powerful drug cartels protected by corrupt officials, set the stage for the following bloody years.
“The crackdown led to widespread killing and cartels conducting ‘social terrorism’ by killing and kidnapping children until Mexican officials left their territory. Homicides related to the drugs more than doubled, and Mexico’s total homicide rate increased by 57 percent from 2007 to 2008 alone,” Knudsen’s statement reads.
In the amicus brief, the AGs make clear that gunmakers bear no responsibility for Mexico’s corrupt officials and criminal elements.
“Mexico’s lawsuit rests on a legal theory that is unsupported by fact or law,” they wrote. “This Court should affirm the district court and dismiss all claims against Defendants.”