The Mexican government, which has failed to stop an unceasing supply of illegal, high-powered weaponry from entering the country, is trying another tack: Suing American gun makers and a Billerica-based gun wholesale in Boston federal court.
In a suit filed today in US District Court in Boston, Mexico claims the gun makers, including Smith and Wesson of Springfield, and wholesaler Interstate Arms, are deliberately letting guns that can be converted into automatic weapons, some capable of taking down helicopters, be acquired by Mexican cartels, which are using them to destabilize an entire nation through gun violence.
Defendant Smith & Wesson, for example, makes decisions in Massachusetts to design, market, and distribute its guns in the reckless, dangerous ways that supply traffickers and cartels. Smith & Wesson's decisions to renege on the reforms to which it had agreed with the U.S. government, and to use corrupt dealers and high-risk business practices that it knows arm the cartels, all occur in the U.S. This Court can stop the flow of guns into Mexico at its source in Massachusetts by requiring Smith & Wesson to stop actively facilitating the criminal gun trade into Mexico. The same is true for the other Defendants.
The complaint sets out what the Mexican government says it's up against:
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. 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.
Defendants design, market, distribute, and sell guns in ways they know routinely arm the drug cartels in Mexico. Defendants use reckless and corrupt gun dealers and dangerous and illegal sales practices that the cartels rely on to get their guns. Defendants design these guns to be easily modified to fire automatically and to be readily transferable on the criminal market in Mexico. Defendants know how to make and sell their guns to prevent this illegal trade; the U.S. government and a U.S. court told them how. Defendants defy those recommendations, and many others, and instead choose to continue supplying the criminal gun market in Mexico - because they profit from it.
The Government has strong domestic laws that make it virtually impossible for criminals to lawfully obtain guns in Mexico. Mexico has one gun store in the entire nation and issues fewer than 50 gun permits per year.
Defendants undermine these stringent laws, and wreak havoc in Mexican society, by persistently supplying a torrent of guns to the drug cartels. It is estimated that more than a half million guns annually are trafficked from the U.S. into Mexico. Defendants produce more than 68% of those U.S.-origin trafficked guns, which means that they annually sell more than 340,000 guns that flow from their plants in Massachusetts and other U.S. states to criminals south of the border.
The Mexican government is relying on a couple of Supreme Court rulings it says allow "trans-national torts" - one involving a man kidnapped in Mexico to face trial for murdering a DEA agent there.
Just as Defendants may not dump toxic waste or other pollutants to poison Mexicans across the border, they may not send their weapons of war into the hands of the cartels, causing repeated and grievous harm, and then claim immunity from accountability.
To be clear, this lawsuit does not challenge or question the law, policy, or actions of the United States; the Government seeks to hold accountable and stop the reckless actions of private companies that foreseeably send their guns into Mexico.
Likewise, this case has nothing to do with the Second Amendment right of law-abiding, responsible U.S. citizens to keep and bear arms within the U.S. This case involves Defendants' supplying their guns to law-breaking Mexican nationals and others in Mexico. The cartels have no Second Amendment rights, and the Defendants have no right to supply them.
In addition to Smith and Wesson and Interstate Arms, Mexico alleges that nine other gun dealers in eastern Massachusetts have sold guns that wound up being used by Mexican cartels. In addition to its federal allegations, Mexico alleges that the gun maker is violating the Massachusetts consumer-protection law:
Smith & Wesson violated the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act, Mass. Gen. Laws c. 93A ("Chapter 93A"), through marketing that emphasized the ability of civilians to misuse Smith & Wesson assault rifles in unlawful, military-style attacks and encouraged such misuse.
Smith & Wesson primarily manufactures, markets, and distributes AR-15-style assault rifles like the Smith & Wesson M&P 15 from a base of operations in Massachusetts. It is thus subject to Chapter 93A, which prohibits immoral or reckless advertising inducing unlawful or dangerous misuse of products, even when harms resulting from the unlawful marketing are felt outside of Massachusetts.
Smith & Wesson knowingly violated Chapter 93A by marketing products, including AR-15 style rifles like the Smith & Wesson M&P 15, to the civilian market in ways that highlighted their efficacy for civilians wanting to carry out unlawful military-style combat missions and that encouraged and promoted the misuse.
Smith & Wesson did so knowing that its marketing would motivate and attract criminal users - including the cartels - to select and misuse its products in unlawful acts of violence. Smith & Wesson intentionally emphasized the ability of its products to rapidly dispatch large numbers of opponents in armed combat, appealing especially to criminals like the cartels who want to outgun and defeat law enforcement or military forces.
The Mexican government's complaint asks a judge to order the companies to take steps both to make their guns less valuable to the cartels by making them harder to turn into automatic weapons or obliterate serial numbers and by cutting off any distributors found selling to cartels. Also, the companies need to pay Mexico their allegedly ill-gotten profits on the weapons and pay punitive damages.
The complaint was written and filed by two lawyers from Austin, TX specializing in "landmark class-action litigation involving economic and civil rights" and by a lawyer for Brady United, the gun-control group named for Reagan's press secretary, shot during an assassination attempt against Reagan.
Complete complaint (2.5M PDF).