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Attorney General Knudsen leads coalition against Mexico’s attack on American gun companies

HELENA – Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen is leading a coalition of 20 states against a foreign attack on the American firearms industry. In an amicus brief filed Thursday, the 20 attorneys general seek to protect the law-abiding firearms manufacturers within their borders and to uphold the rights of their citizens to keep and bear arms.

The Mexican government is seeking $10 billion from several major U.S. firearms manufacturers, saying these companies are responsible for the violence in their country. A U.S. District Judge dismissed the lawsuit last September, and the Mexican government appealed. The Montana-led coalition filed an amicus brief calling on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit to affirm the district court’s decisions and dismiss all claims against the American companies.

“Mexico advances a legal theory that is unsupported by fact or law. On the facts, American gun manufacturers are not responsible for gun violence in Mexico. Rather, policy choices by the Mexican government, policy failures in the United States, and independent criminal actions by third parties are alone responsible for gun violence in Mexico,” the brief states. “And on the law, even if Mexico could establish but-for causation between the manufacture of guns in America and gun violence in Mexico, intervening criminal actions preclude finding proximate causation between a gun’s legal sale and the harm caused by it.” 

In its lawsuit, Mexico blamed the 2004 expiration of the U.S. “assault-weapons ban” for a spike in gun violence in their country, but the homicide rate decreased in the three years after the American ban ended. The homicide rates didn’t increase until after Mexico declared war on the drug cartels in late 2006.

Before the crackdown, high levels of corruption in Mexico meant that government officials accepted payoffs from the cartels, allowing them to smuggle drugs north of the border with relative ease. This status quo meant that the cartels grew in power, established set territories, and flooded the United States with illegal drugs. The crackdown led to widespread killing and cartels conducting “social terrorism” by killing and kidnapping children until Mexican officials left their territory. Resultingly, homicides related to the drug war more than doubled and Mexico’s total homicide rate increased by 57% from 2007 to 2008 alone.

Mexico claims that American guns are “among the deadliest and most often recovered at crime scenes in Mexico,” but only a minority of guns recovered at crime scenes in the country – some researchers believe about 12% while Mexican officials estimate it to be only 18% – can be traced back to the United States. Among those, many were sold to the Mexican military or law enforcement and ended up in cartel hands as the result of military or law enforcement desertion.

Even if cartels are using American-made guns in the commission of crimes, it’s not the fault of American gun manufacturers. The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) protects them from liability stemming from the criminal misuse of guns when they lawfully sell or manufacture firearms in the United States. The law was passed in direct response to lawsuits from anti-gun groups seeking to financially cripple the firearms market — just as Mexico is doing here, recycling the tactics of the American anti-gun lobby.

“The activity that Congress shielded from liability — the production and sale of firearms — occurred entirely in the United States and is protected from the criminal actions of third parties, wherever that might occur,” the attorneys general wrote in the brief. “Mexico’s lawsuit rests on a legal theory that is unsupported by fact or law. This Court should affirm the district court and dismiss all claims against Defendants.” 

Joining Attorney General Knudsen are attorneys general from Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

Click here to read the full brief.