In a suspiciously timed decision, a three-judge panel on the First Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday revived the lawsuit filed by the Mexican government against more than a half dozen of the firearms industry’s biggest players, giving gun control groups a major (though hopefully only temporary) victory. The opinion overturning U.S. District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV’s order throwing out the lawsuit came as tens of thousands of industry members gathered in Las Vegas for the start of the 2024 Shooting Hunting Outdoor Trade Show, better known as SHOT, and is a shot across the bow of companies like Glock, Beretta, and Smith & Wesson.
The decision, which is likely to be appealed, is one of the most significant setbacks for gunmakers since passage of a federal law nearly two decades ago that has provided immunity from lawsuits brought by the families of people killed and injured by their weapons.
Mexico, in an attempt to challenge the reach of that law, sued six manufacturers in 2021, including Smith & Wesson, Glock and Ruger. It contended that the companies should be held liable for the trafficking of a half-million guns across the border a year, some of which were used in murders.
In September 2022, a Federal District Court judge threw out the suit, ruling that the law prohibits legal action brought by foreign governments.
But Judge William J. Kayatta Jr., an Obama appointee who serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, writing for a unanimous majority, revived the lawsuit. The ruling said that plaintiffs had made a “plausible” argument that their case was “statutorily exempt” from the immunity shield.
The administration of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, aided by longtime gun control activist Jonathan Lowy and his outfit Global Action on Gun Violence, isn’t just accusing the firearms industry of willfully allowing guns to be trafficked across the border into Mexico, but goes so far as to claim that gun companies “know, or otherwise remain willfully blind to the fact, that their civilian semi-automatic weapons are easily converted into automatic weapons” and that the semi-automatic design of the guns they produce “is intentional and attractive to criminal organizations.”
In other words, this is an attack on semi-automatic firearms in general, including those that never cross the border into Mexico. In addition to the $10 billion dollar judgment the Mexican government is demanding, the AMLO administration is also calling on the courts to order the defendants to (among other things):
- Incorporate all reasonably available safety mechanisms into their guns, including devices to prevent use of those guns by unauthorized users
- Fund studies, programs, advertising campaigns, and other events focused on preventing unlawful trafficking of guns
- Enter an injunction against the Defendants requiring them to take all necessary action to abate the current and future harm that their conduct is causing and would otherwise cause in the future in Mexico
- Award damages to the Government in an amount to be determined at trial
- Award civil penalties to the Government as permitted by law
- Award to the Government restitution and disgorgement of Defendants’ profits
If the Mexican government were to get its wish, not only would the firearms industry be gutted financially, but the vast majority of firearms produced by U.S. manufacturers could soon be off-limits for sale and production.
I’m not one for conspiracy theories, but the timing of the First Circuit’s decision seems awfully suspect to me. The case was appealed to the First Circuit in October of 2022, and the panel just happened to finish its opinion just in time to coincide with the start of the firearm industry’s biggest annual gathering? It’s not just what the panel’s decision has to say that reeks of political activism, but when it was released as well.
Larry Keane, senior vice president and general counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, told the New York Times that the group “respectfully and profoundly disagrees” with the panel’s decision and is weighing its options to appeal. Keane added that the Mexican government “should spend its time enforcing its own laws and bring Mexican criminals to justice in Mexican courtrooms, instead of scapegoating the firearm industry for their inability and unwillingness to protect Mexican citizens from the cartels.”
The AMLO administration will never do that. They want to blame the lawful commerce in arms in the United States for the violence perpetrated by cartels south of the border, even though the Mexican government has admitted that those cartels are even acquiring military weaponry like belt-fed machine guns, rocket launchers, and grenades not found in any gun store in the U.S. Meanwhile, the gun control lobby is happy to blame the actions of cartel members on U.S. gun companies, just as they blame them for the actions of violent criminals here at home. Neither group are actively trying to put an end to the drug cartels who are responsible for tens of thousands of American deaths each year. Their goal is the utter annihilation of the firearms industry, and in turn, our ability to exercise our Second Amendment rights.