A collection of rifles on sale at a Virginia gun store in July 2023
A collection of rifles on sale at a Virginia gun store in July 2023 / Stephen Gutowski

Judge Greenlights Mexico’s Lawsuit Against Arizona Gun Sellers

Mexico can continue to sue five Arizona gun businesses over criminal gun trafficking through the southern border, a federal judge ruled Monday.

US District Judge Rosemary Marquez denied the firearms dealers’ request to have the case dismissed under the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA). She rejected claims that the statute, which generally prohibits lawsuits against the gun industry for crimes committed by third parties, barred Mexico’s allegations that the gun dealers’ sales practices helped fuel criminal violence south of the border. She found Mexico met the bar to carry on with some of its claims, such as negligent entrustment of firearms to dangerous buyers or unjust enrichment through those sales, while tossing several others.

“The Court finds that Plaintiff’s Complaint adequately alleges that Defendants were unjustly enriched by Plaintiff bearing the costs of correcting harm that Defendants caused for purposes of increasing their profits,” Judge Marquez wrote in Mexico v. Diamondback Shooting Sports et al. “Plaintiff has also alleged a connection between, and an absence of justification
for, the enrichment and impoverishment: Defendants profit from selling firearms to straw purchasers and firearm traffickers, Defendants’ sales result in the flow of firearms to cartels in Mexico, and Plaintiff bears the cost of harm inflicted by the resultant cartel violence.”

The ruling notches another win for Mexico in its quest to hold the American gun industry responsible for the country’s problems with cartel violence. It arrives just two months after a federal appeals court revived its $10 billion lawsuit against most of the largest US firearms manufacturers on similar grounds. The pair of successful verdicts for Mexico could inspire similar efforts from gun-control advocates looking for new ways to pierce the PLCAA’s protective shield.

Mexico first filed suit against the Arizona-based Diamondback Shooting Sports Inc., SnG Tactical LLC, Loan Prairie LLC, Ammo A-Z LLC, and Sprague’s Sports Inc. in October 2022. It claimed that the five gun sellers “routinely and systematically” supply firearms to criminal organizations through “reckless and unlawful” business practices, including sales to straw purchasers who traffic firearms into Mexico. The complaint noted multiple instances of crime guns recovered by police whose origins could be traced back to the five dealers.

Judge Marquez, a Barack Obama appointee, ruled that Mexico “plausibly alleged” a direct relationship between the stores’ business practices and the illegal gun trade was enough to bypass the PLCAA at this early stage in the case. She found it had identified potential state law violations, which would void protections offered by the PLCAA.

“Specifically, the Complaint alleges that Defendants know military-style assault weapons are preferred by violent cartels in Mexico and routinely trafficked into Mexico but that, despite this knowledge, Defendants profit by continuing to engage in straw sales, multiple sales, and repeat sales to buyers who are in essence agents of the cartels, with such conduct foreseeably resulting in harm from gun violence in Mexico,” she wrote.

Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs celebrated the decision and said it would continue to “defend its interests and those of its citizens.”

The Global Action on Gun Violence (GAGV), a non-profit organization founded by American gun-control advocates to support Mexico’s suit and similar efforts, called the ruling a “huge step forward.”

“Today’s ruling is a huge step forward in holding the gun industry accountable for its contribution to gun violence, and in stopping the flood of trafficked guns to the cartels,” Jonathan Lowy, GAGV founder and co-counsel for Mexico, said in a statement. “We look forward to now proving our case in court.”

Attorneys representing the defendants did not respond to a request for comment.

Monday’s ruling will allow the case to proceed to trial. However, Mexico will still have to produce evidence that its claims against the gun sellers rise to the level of civil liability. Notably, Judge Marquez dismissed some of Mexico’s more outlandish claims, including that the defendants’ advertising of so-called assault weapons violated consumer protection laws and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.

The case will now move to the discovery process.

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Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019


Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

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