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Court reinstates suit by Mexican government against American gun companies over weapons flooding its country

A federal appeals court in Boston yesterday re-opened a lawsuit by the Mexican government against American gun makers and a Boston-area gun wholesaler alleging the companies are deliberately encouraging the flow of deadly assault weapons south of the Rio Grande.

US District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor had earlier dismissed the suit, agreeing with the gun companies they are protected by the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which shields gun makers from responsibility for what buyers of their products do with them.

But in its ruling, the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit said that law applies only if the gunmakers themselves are doing nothing wrong, and the heart of the Mexican suit is that the gun makers and sellers knowingly encouraged the illegal sales of arms into Mexico - a country with strict gun laws and just one licensed gun dealer that has become a violent battleground.

The appeals court directed Saylor to re-consider whether the Mexican case can go forward based on that argument instead.

Mexico, which says it brought its suit in Massachusetts for several reasons, including that the gun dealer is based here and guns found in Mexico have been traced to it and other gun dealers in the Boston area, argues that gun companies designed their sales and marketing practices around the fact that they knew they could boost profits by having guns pour across the border.

The gun companies retorted that there's just too long a series of intervening steps to prove they had "proximate causation" - or some sort of direct involvement in illegal gun sales in Mexican states, let alone be the cause for the extra financial burden to the Mexican government of trying to stem those sales. The court, however, turned to analogies to short-circuit that argument:

Consider a defendant who falls asleep at the helm of a large ship, leaning on the helm, so as to move the tiller, which turns the rudder, which then turns the ship off course, hitting and weakening a dike, and thereby causing a reasonably cautious downstream farmer to build a levee. Surely the ability to describe this causation in multiple steps would not mean that, as a matter of law, the negligent helmsperson did not foreseeably cause the farmer compensable harm. Rather, one would more reasonably say that negligently steering the ship foreseeably caused the need to shore-up flood defenses. So, too, here, the complaint plausibly alleges that aiding and abetting the illegal sale of a large volume of assault weapons to the cartels foreseeably caused the Mexican government to shore-up its defenses.

Here, the complaint alleges not only that it was foreseeable that defendants' guns would end up in the hands of Mexican cartels, but also that defendants actually intended to bring about that result. And it is certainly foreseeable that Mexican drug cartels -- armed with defendants' weapons -- would use those weapons to commit violent crimes. The acts of these third parties are therefore properly considered as part of the proximate causation chain.

Also:

Imagine that a U.S. company sent a mercenary unit of combat troops to attack people in Mexico City. Such an attack would directly cause Mexico itself the expense of paying soldiers to defend the city. Proximate cause would be quite clear. So, too, here, where the defendants are alleged to have armed the attackers for their continuing assaults.

Mexico may also be able to show that other of its alleged harms are proximately caused by defendants' actions, and not merely derivative of harms to its citizens. For example, if Mexico can prove that it had to proactively spend more funds to bolster its healthcare facilities, social services, and judicial system in response to the cartels' accumulation of defendants' guns, these expenses might also not be merely derivative of the injuries suffered by individual victims. On the other hand, other alleged harms, such as lower economic efficiency due to the decreased size of the working population, are derivative because the harm to the government flows only from prior harm inflicted upon its citizens. The bottom line is that Mexico has plausibly alleged at least some injuries that it has suffered directly from the illegal trafficking of guns into Mexico, and that are not merely derivative of the harm suffered by the victims of gun violence.

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Comments

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We'll rein in the guns if you rein in the Chinese fentanyl.

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is using the guns in Mexico?

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They need guns?

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they could do if they didn't have so damn many guns?

It's really not hard to figure out if you're intellectually honest.

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Fentanyl without guns?!

Chicken or the egg question- guns came before the fentanyl according to you?

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...are you disingenuous, intellectually dishonest, very stupid, or some combination of the above?

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.

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If this makes it to trial and Mexico gets the win, the floodgates are going to open let we haven't seen in decades. Sue beer companies for drink driving fatalities, sugar companies for diabetes, and go after porn companies for rapes. The 2020s will be the lawsuit decade, it's the dream of every law school turning out hundreds of surplus ambulance chasers.

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Maybe all those reichwing "gun collectors" will have to square their hatred of migrants with their love of selling guns south.

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Food manufacturers who put high-fructose corn syrup and trans fats into snack foods, for example.

Society has made peace with alcohol since Prohibition. I doubt regulation will go any further. No real Happy Hours or Ladies' Nights in Massachusetts since Dukakis. But other than that, too traditional.

We're in the beginning of an experiment with cannabis and THC concentrates. Since there's a link between use and schizophrenia and other mental illnesses, there will be lawsuits cutting back that industry, which has gone to far with vaping concentrates and edibles.

We're also at the beginning of a porn rollback. Age verification rules will curtail it. More aggressive obscenity prosecution would be a winning electoral issue.

If Mexico can prove that gun manufacturers tailored marketing to cross-border sellers, good for them.

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