BOSTON, November 23, 2021, (Reuters) – Gun makers including Smith & Wesson (SWBI.O) and Sturm, Ruger & Co (RGR.N) on Monday asked a U.S. judge to dismiss a lawsuit by the Mexican government accusing them of facilitating the trafficking of weapons to drug cartels, leading to thousands of deaths.
The gun manufacturers in a brief told a federal judge in Boston that Mexico was seeking through its $10 billion lawsuit to punish them for sales of firearms “that are not only lawful but constitutionally protected in the United States.”
The companies, who also include Beretta USA, Barrett Firearms Manufacturing, Colt’s Manufacturing Co and Glock Inc argued Mexico was trying to use U.S. courts to circumvent a diplomatic dispute with the United States yet lacked the ability to sue them.
Successive Mexican governments have urged the United States to put a stop to the illicit trafficking of U.S. firearms into Mexico.
“At bottom, this case implicates a clash of national values,” the companies argued. “Whereas the United States recognizes the right to keep and bear arms, Mexico has all but eliminated private gun ownership.”
Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard during a United Nations Security Council meeting on small arms on Monday called the country’s decision to file the unusual lawsuit in August “a question of principle and a moral obligation.”
The lawsuit claimed the companies undermined Mexico’s strict gun laws by designing, marketing and distributing military-style assault weapons in ways they knew would arm drug cartels, fueling murders, extortions and kidnappings.
Mexico’s lawsuit said over 500,000 guns are trafficked annually from the United States into Mexico, of which more than 68% are made by the manufacturers it sued.
The companies argued Mexico failed to establish its harms were attributable to them and that a U.S. law, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, protected gun manufactures from lawsuits over their products’ misuse.
While the companies said Mexico believed the law does not apply to its claims, “the plain text of the statute forecloses that theory.”
Mexico’s foreign ministry said in a statement it would respond to the companies’ arguments on Jan. 31.