Judge Dismisses Mexican Government’s Lawsuit Seeking Damages From US Gun Companies for Mexican Crime

Judge Dismisses Mexican Government’s Lawsuit Seeking Damages From US Gun Companies for Mexican Crime
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador speaks during the daily briefing at Palacio Nacional in Mexico City, Mexico, on June 28, 2022. (Hector Vivas/Getty Images)
Matthew Vadum

Manufacturers and wholesalers of firearms in the United States can't be held liable for criminal gun trafficking into Mexico, a federal judge in Massachusetts ruled in a major blow against U.S.-based gun control efforts.

Mexico sued Smith & Wesson, Sturm Ruger & Co., Glock, Barrett Firearms, Beretta, Colt, Century Arms, and Interstate Arms a year ago, claiming that the U.S. companies undermined that country’s tough gun laws by making, promoting, and selling “military-style assault weapons” in such a way that the guns would be appealing to drug cartels and criminals.

U.S. gun control groups sided with Mexico, urging the court to ignore U.S. federal law and allow the Mexican lawsuit against U.S. companies to proceed.

Jonathan Lowy, vice president of the litigation branch of the Brady Campaign, joined as co-counsel on Mexico’s legal team. Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control group funded by left-wing billionaire Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York, filed a friend-of-the-court brief in favor of Mexico.

The states of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, as well as the District of Columbia, filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting Mexico’s position.

Mexico claimed up to 90 percent of guns found at crime scenes there originated in the United States and that the defendant companies supplied more than 68 percent of the guns. Mexico alleged the companies failed to prevent unlawful gun trafficking and demanded $10 billion in damages, according to The Reload, a publication focusing on the policies and politics surrounding firearms.

But Chief Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV of the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts ruled (pdf) late on Sept. 30 in Mexico v. Smith & Wesson Brands Inc., court file 21-11269, that the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) of 2005 shielded the companies from liability for the harms alleged by Mexico. Saylor was appointed by former President George W. Bush.

The PLCAA was enacted to prevent anti-Second Amendment activists and jurisdictions from engaging in backdoor gun control by bankrupting gun companies for engaging in lawful commerce. Manufacturers and dealers may still be sued for defective products, breach of contract, criminal misconduct, and other actions for which they are directly responsible, but not for the mere unlawful use of their products by criminals.

“Unfortunately for the government of Mexico, all of its claims are either barred by federal law or fail for other reasons,” Saylor wrote. “The PLCAA unequivocally bars lawsuits seeking to hold gun manufacturers responsible for the acts of individuals using guns for their intended purpose. And while the statute contains several narrow exceptions, none are applicable here.

“This Court does not have the authority to ignore an act of Congress. Nor is its proper role to devise stratagems to avoid statutory commands, even where the allegations of the complaint may evoke a sympathetic response," the judge wrote. "And 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."

According to The Reload, Saylor’s ruling “deals a major blow to the ongoing efforts by gun-control advocates to undermine the PLCAA. The statute has long been a target for the groups … [that] claim it unfairly shields U.S. gun makers from liability for the harm caused by gun violence. Gun-control activists in the U.S. hoped the Mexico suit would serve as a potent vehicle for piercing the statute’s protections.”

The Embassy of Mexico in the United States and the Brady Campaign didn't respond by press time to a request by The Epoch Times for comment.