U.S. arms makers urge judge to dismiss Mexico’s $10 billion lawsuit By Reuters

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A Smith & Wesson logo is displayed during the National Rifle Association (NRA) annual convention in Dallas, Texas, U.S. May 6, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

By Nate Raymond

BOSTON (Reuters) – A U.S. judge debated on Tuesday whether allowing Mexico to sue U.S. arms makers for facilitating arms trafficking to drug cartels would open the door for other countries to prosecute them, including including Russia for firearms used by Ukrainians in the ongoing war.

U.S. District Judge F. Dennis Saylor in Boston raised the prospect as he considered whether to dismiss Mexico’s $10 billion lawsuit to hold gunmakers including Smith & Wesson and Sturm, Ruger & Co, responsible for a deadly flow of weapons across the border.

Mexico, in a lawsuit filed in August, accused the companies of breaking its strict gun laws by designing, marketing and distributing military-style assault weapons in a way they knew they were. would arm drug cartels, fueling murders and kidnappings.

He said more than 500,000 firearms are smuggled from the United States to Mexico each year, more than 68% of which are made by the gunmakers being sued, which also include Beretta USA, Barrett Firearms Manufacturing, Colt’s Manufacturing Co and Glock Inc.

“They know how criminals get their guns,” Jonathan Lowy, a lawyer from Mexico, said during the 90-minute virtual hearing. “They might stop and they choose to be willfully blind to the facts.”

But Saylor questioned whether Mexico’s position would mean that the protections gunmakers typically enjoy under the federal Protection of Lawful Arms Trade Act (PLCAA) from lawsuits for misuse of their products are “completely hollow”.

He asked why if Mexico could prosecute arms manufacturers, other countries could not either, such as Italy for the Mafia murders, Israel for the attacks by the Palestinian militant group Hamas, or even the Russia for the death of its soldiers in Ukraine if the weapons of the companies were used. .

“If Ukrainians use US-made military weapons or Smith & Wesson revolvers to defend themselves, can the Russian government step in and say you have caused us harm?” He asked. “I mean, why not, if your theory is right?”

Steven Shadowen, another lawyer from Mexico, said other foreign countries could also sue if they met the conditions, although he said US courts could refuse to hear a case if it presented a political issue.

But Andrew Lelling, a lawyer for Smith & Wesson, said it would be ‘absurd’ to conclude that federal law only bars US injury lawsuits and not Mexico’s arms trafficking claims. to Mexican criminals.

He said it was too difficult for Mexico to prosecute companies for selling guns that were legal in the United States to wholesalers who in turn sold them to retailers before criminals smuggled them in. smuggling.

“They should argue that Congress intended to enforce this robust law if an independent criminal actor shot someone in San Diego, but not if they crossed the border and shot someone in Tijuana,” Lelling said.

Alejandro Celorio, legal adviser to Mexico’s foreign ministry, said the court’s resolution would likely take weeks and noted that the complexity of the case made a nuanced ruling more likely than a simple “yes or no” decision. .

Speaking over a videoconference, Celorio said if the court rules against Mexico, the government is likely to appeal. A negotiated settlement was “always an option”, he added, but stressed that Mexico had no intention of changing its strategy at this time.

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