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This story originally appeared in Common Dreams on Feb. 1, 2022. It is shared here with permission under a Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0) license.

In a big boost to the Mexican government’s historic federal lawsuit against American gun-makers, 13 US states, the District of Columbia, two countries, a coalition of attorneys general, and numerous advocacy groups on Monday filed or joined amicus briefs supporting Mexico’s litigation, which seeks to hold weapons manufacturers accountable for the violence they facilitate. 

“The defendant gun manufacturers send guns to Mexico, where transnational drug cartels use them to inflict violence on both sides of the border.”

Chesa Boudin, San Francisco District Attorney

Law.com reports attorneys general from California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, and Oregon joined an amicus brief filed by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey urging a federal court in Boston to deny the gun-makers’ motions to dismiss the suit

“States and cities have the right to protect residents with reasonable gun laws—and federal law doesn’t shield companies from complying,” Washington, DC Attorney General Karl A. Racine, a Democrat, tweeted Tuesday. 

The Trace reports Alejandro Celorio Alcántara, principal legal adviser of Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said: “I feel very encouraged because this means that what we are doing as a government is worth doing. We are confirming that the missing link in this whole equation of illicit trafficking is the gun companies. And I think that’s recognized on both sides of the border.”

According to Law.com:

A separate brief filed by Ellen Leonida, a partner at BraunHagey & Borden, on behalf of a coalition of U.S. district attorneys asserts that U.S. cities have been negatively impacted by the guns trafficked into Mexico, saying those weapons end up on U.S. streets alongside vast quantities of illicit drugs. Leonida also linked the weapons trafficking to rising homicides and overdose deaths in the U.S.

Signees to that amicus brief include Melinda Katz, district attorney for Queens County, New York, and San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin. 

“The defendant gun manufacturers send guns to Mexico, where transnational drug cartels use them to inflict violence on both sides of the border,” Boudin said in a statement. “These gun manufacturers are empowering the drug traffickers flooding our streets with fentanyl and methamphetamines.”

Reuters reports that the countries of Belize as well as Antigua and Barbuda on Monday filed separate briefs urging the court to deny the defendants’ motions to dismiss the suit, arguing that US gun-makers “must not be permitted to hold hostage the law-abiding citizens of an entire region of the world.” 

Various US gun violence prevention groups—including Everytown for Gun Safety, Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Global Exchange, March for Our Lives, Newtown Action Alliance, and the Violence Policy Center—also on Monday filed an amicus brief in support of Mexico’s litigation. 

“As this case shows, the impact of irresponsible gun industry practices can have devastating effects on communities—whether in the U.S. or abroad,” Alla Lefkowitz, senior director of affirmative litigation at Everytown Law, said in a statement. “The gun industry has refused to accept that it has a critical role to play in preventing gun violence. No industry should be able to operate with impunity, and we’ll continue to fight on every front to hold reckless actors in the industry accountable for the harm they cause.”

Last August, Mexico sued companies including Smith & Wesson, Barrett Firearms, Beretta USA, Colt’s Manufacturing Co., Glock, and Sturm, Ruger & Co., seeking as much as $10 billion in compensation after linking more than 17,000 of the nation’s 34,648 homicides in 2019 to weapons trafficked from the United States. 

“Almost all guns recovered at crime scenes in Mexico—70% to 90% of them—were trafficked from the U.S.,” the lawsuit states, adding that it seeks to “put an end to the massive damage that the defendants cause by actively facilitating the unlawful trafficking of their guns to drug cartels and other criminals in Mexico.”

According to Reuters: 

The companies have argued Mexico has failed to establish its harms were attributable to them and that a U.S. law, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, protected gun-makers from lawsuits over their products’ misuse.

Mexico’s lawyers in a filing on Monday countered that the law only precludes lawsuits over injuries that occur in the United States and would not shield the companies from allegations over the trafficking of guns to Mexican criminals.

“The enormous and militarized U.S. gun market has accelerated violence in Mexico, which in turn has forced migrants to seek asylum in the United States,” John Lindsay-Poland, coordinator of the Stop U.S. Arms to Mexico project at Global Exchange, said in a statement.

“Criminal organizations in Mexico make profits based on territory they control, for which they use U.S.-sourced, military-grade weapons,” he added. “The assault and sniper rifles aggressively marketed by the gun company defendants provide a perfect supply for such violence. Global Exchange stands with those seeking to change the U.S. weapons industry’s practices.”

Brett Wilkins

Brett Wilkins is a staff writer for Common Dreams.