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Mexico’s gun violence suit is barred by US law, companies say

A Glock 23. (Geoffrey Fairchild/Flickr)

The Mexican government’s U.S. suit against gun manufacturers over violence involving their products is illegal and must be dismissed, Smith & Wesson Brands Inc., Glock Inc. and other companies told a federal judge in Boston.

Smith & Wesson’s lawyer, Andrew Lelling, said Tuesday in a hearing before U.S. District Judge F. Dennis Saylor that a law passed by Congress in 2005 to shield firearms manufacturers from liability barred Mexico’s suit.

Mexico “is using the court as a tool” to circumvent legislative channels, Lelling said.

The Mexican government filed the suit last year in Massachusetts, where several of the gun-makers, including Smith & Wesson, are based. It is seeking billions of dollars over thousands of murders it claims are committed with guns illegally smuggled across the border from the U.S.

According to the suit, the “reckless sales practices” of the companies “wreak havoc in Mexican society by persistently supplying a torrent of guns to the drug cartels.” Mexico claims 17,000 of its citizens were murdered in 2019 with guns made in the U.S.

Saylor on Tuesday seemed to question the logic behind the suit. He asked if the government of Italy could sue gun-makers over Mafia violence or if El Salvador could file claims over murders committed by criminal gang MS-13.

Mexico’s lawyer, Steve Shadowen, responded that he didn’t see why not.

“I believe there would be no bar to those claims if they can meet the requirements we meet here of proximate cause, and if their law gives them a claim they can pursue in the United States,” Shadowen told the court.

Lelling also said there is evidence that “many” of the guns used in Mexico are made by companies not named in the suit. Along with Smith & Wesson and Glock, the suit also names Sturm, Ruger & Co., Beretta U.S.A. Corp., Colt’s Manufacturing Co. and several other major gun-makers.

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