Some of the most prominent gun manufacturers in America have asked for a dismissal of a lawsuit filed against them by the Mexican government.
Gunmakers Smith & Wesson, Sturm Ruger & Co, Glock, Inc., and others filed a joint motion to dismiss with a Massachusetts federal court on Monday. The companies argued that the lawsuit sought to punish legal conduct and that the Mexican government did not have standing to bring the case to court.
“At bottom, this case implicates a clash of national values,” the joint motion said. “Whereas the United States recognizes the right to keep and bear arms, Mexico has all but eliminated private gun ownership. Mexico can, of course, impose gun control within its own borders. But in this case it seeks to reach outside its borders and punish firearms sales that are not only lawful but constitutionally protected in the United States.”
The legal proceedings in the suit are sure to be one of the most high-profile tests of gun maker liability. The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) generally shields gun manufacturers and dealers from liability over the criminal misuse of legally sold firearms. But opponents of the law have recently become increasingly active in testing for vulnerabilities to gun maker liability protection.
If the dismissal is granted, it will reaffirm the principles behind laws like the PLCAA. If the dismissal is tossed, however, it could have significant repercussions on U.S. firearms commerce moving forward.
The original lawsuit, filed by the Mexican government in August, alleged that U.S. gun manufacturers actively facilitate illicit gun trafficking and contribute to gun violence problems in Mexico through their business practices.
“For decades the Government and its citizens have been victimized by a deadly flood of military-style and other particularly lethal guns that flows from the U.S. across the border, into criminal hands in Mexico,” the suit said. “This flood is not a natural phenomenon or an inevitable consequence of the gun business or of U.S. gun laws. It is the foreseeable result of the Defendants’ deliberate actions and business practices.”
The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the firearms industry trade group, spoke out against the suit at the time and called the Mexican government’s claims “baseless.”
“The Mexican government is responsible for the rampant crime and corruption within their own borders,” Larry Keane, NSSF Senior Vice President and General Counsel, said. “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 the Mexican military and law enforcement.”
The suit nevertheless aims to force US gun makers to compensate Mexico for the costs of its gun violence problem to the tune of an estimated $10 billion.
“Defendants’ unconscionable conduct warrants an assessment of exemplary and punitive damages,” the suit said.
But the accused gun makers see the damages claim as a threat to both the firearms industry and American legal sovereignty.
“By seeking to bankrupt U.S. gun makers, this gambit not only threatens America’s constitutional freedoms, but also the careful balance of firearms regulations set by Congress and state legislatures,” they said. “It also tries to use the judiciary as a tool for circumventing an active diplomatic dispute between the United States and Mexico about the international effects of U.S. firearms policy.”
Therefore, they argued the case should not be allowed to proceed.
“This Court need not play along,” they said. “It should dismiss the complaint.”
The Mexican government has until January 31st of next year to respond to the gunmakers’ motion.