Since the end of 2022, Mexico has lost the lawsuit it filed in the United States against 8 weapons manufacturing companies, including Smith & Wesson, Barrett and Colt, firms that have already appeared before a Court of Appeals. requesting ratification of the ruling that favored them, issued against Mexico by a judge in the state of Massachusetts.
At a hearing held in Boston, home of the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, lawyers for Smith & Wesson They argued before three magistrates that their clients are not responsible for the weapons they manufacture arriving illegally in Mexico, causing tens of thousands of victims at the hands of organized crime.
“The defendants do not sell directly to anyone, you have legal manufacturers that sell to legal distributors, which in turn communicate with legal retailers”, therefore, if in that commercial chain “someone is going to use the product to engage in some illegal activity, it is not enough to satisfy the liability of complicity,” the litigant emphasized. Noel J. Francisco, according to the transcripts of the hearing, a copy of which you have HIGH LEVEL.
Mexico went to appeal trying to reactivate the lawsuit filed against the Smith & Wesson companies; Barrett Firearms; Campfour; Century International Arms; Colt’s Manufacturing; Remarms; Sturm, Ruger & Company; and Interstate Sales Corporation, after Judge Frank Dennis Saylor IV dismiss claims made by the president’s administration Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
In that ruling, the Mexican government’s arguments were insufficient to file a civil lawsuit, which sought to hold arms manufacturers responsible for “deliberate and malicious” acts that, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, have caused substantial damage in our country. This was estimated at 10,000 million dollars.
The dismissal of the lawsuit not only means that the Mexican government lost in the District Court of Massachusetts against the companies that manufacture weapons, since Judge Saylor’s decision also implies that these companies can charge our country for the expenses incurred in their defense. . That is why these consortia seek to ensure that Mexico also loses the appeal.
Exceptions to the law
The Mexican government’s lost lawsuit against the manufacturers considers that they, “by producing and marketing their military-style assault weapons,” have caused “a loss of money or property, including, but not limited to, significant expenses in police, emergency, health, prosecutorial, correctional and other services, as well as other extensive economic losses.”
Mexico says, for example, that Barrett manufactures a .50 caliber sniper rifle “that can shoot down helicopters and penetrate lightly armored vehicles and bulletproof glass,” which “It has become one of the cartels’ favorite weapons”.
The incident adds that Smith & Wesson He knew that his products would be illicitly trafficked to Mexico, “to be used by drug cartels.” The lawsuit even claims that this company “knew that its marketing (sic) and advertising would attract people and organizations (…) to fight against the army and police, including the military and police of Mexico.”
These same arguments are those that the government of our country took to the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, in order for this instance to authorize the lawsuit, revoking the dismissal made by Judge Frank Dennis Saylor IV.
The problem is that there is a rule in the neighboring country that protects weapons manufacturers, in case their products are used to commit a crime. Specifically, since 2005, the Law on Protection of Legal Trade in Arms (PLCAA, for its acronym in English) establishes that these companies cannot be held responsible, neither civilly nor criminally, for the crimes carried out using their equipment.
Mexico wants an exception to that law to be applied, and that – at the same time – a US Court judges the eight defendant companies considering the legislation of our country and not that of the United States.
In this vein, one of the magistrates participating in the hearing attended by the lawyers of the arms companies asked how Mexico claims to be right in requesting that apply Mexican law in a US court.
“They are asking that Mexican law be applied in our gun regulation,” said attorney Noel J. Francisco, of Smith & Wesson. “I would highlight that they are completely wrong in the choice” of the norm that should govern, he added.
According to the Mexican Foreign Ministry, weapons manufacturers “must comply with the civil liability law” of our country when being judged in the United States, in this case the intention is that The defendants are sanctioned based on the Federal Civil Code of Mexico.
According to the dismissed lawsuit, gun manufacturers “have the duty not to create any risk that harms a person or entity” on Mexican soil, since this “Code imposes on the Defendants the obligation not to engage in any illicit conduct.” negligent or harmful that causes harm to another.”
Although the majority of weapons sellers do not sell them to be used in the commission of a crime, Mexico has assured that a minority of American distributors (less than 10%) “sell around 90% of weapons for crime.” .
According to the Mexican federal government, close to 50% of the weapons recovered in our country, in criminal scenarios, come from the United States. On the other hand, in the neighboring country it is said that only 2% of the weapons manufactured in that nation are illegally trafficked in Mexico.
The Secretariat of National Defense estimates that more than 200,000 weapons arrive in Mexican territory annually, of which 70% come from the United States, although not all are used to commit crimes.
Last year, the legal consultant of the Mexican Foreign Ministry, Alejandro Celorio, acknowledged that “there are more than 13 million unregistered weapons in circulation in our country.”
On the part of the United States government, at the federal level, that nation has implemented the so-called “Operation Southbound”, which aims to stop arms trafficking to Mexico.
Based on this policy, as recently reported by the US Embassy in our country, in the first half of fiscal year 2023, almost 2,000 firearms and more than 80,000 ammunition were seized, which represents an increase of 65.8% compared to the same period. from the previous year.
Surya Palacios Journalist and lawyer, specialist in legal and human rights analysis. She has been a reporter, radio host and editor.