Global Action on Gun Violence: taking on gunmakers on behalf of foreign governments

The Mexican government sued U.S. gun manufacturers and distributors, including some of the biggest names in guns, on Aug. 4 in U.S. federal court in Boston, arguing that their commercial practices have unleashed tremendous bloodshed in Mexico. John Locher/AP file photo

Frustrated by years of political inaction in the U.S., gun control advocates have been reassessing their approach and coming up with increasingly innovative ways to force firearm companies to take more responsibility for gun violence. One of those people is Jonathan Lowy, the former chief legal counsel at the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, who on Oct. 26 will announce the formation of a new lobbying group, Global Action on Gun Violence, focused on taking on gunmakers on behalf of foreign governments.

The group will partner with other countries to argue that their citizens are harmed by the actions of American gunmakers and the U.S. laws that protect them from litigation.

Lowy filed papers on Oct. 5 under the Foreign Agents Registration Act to provide legal and consulting services to the government of Mexico and plans to work with other nations on similar efforts.

“Litigation and other pressure and activity from the international community could well be the answer that we’re looking for to solve gun violence both in the United States and around the world,” Lowy tells TIME. “This is something that hasn’t really been tried.”

Jonathan Lowy speaks during a news conference on Sept. 8, 2014, in Philadelphia.<span class=lazy class="copyright">Matt Rourke—AP</span>
Jonathan Lowy speaks during a news conference on Sept. 8, 2014, in Philadelphia.Matt Rourke—AP

Lowy’s new mission comes as U.S. gunmaker profits reach all-time highs and as sales of AR-15-style semiautomatic weapons rise. Meanwhile, overall American support of stricter gun control has been rising in the wake of several mass shootings, but domestic efforts to hold gunmakers responsible through the legal system have not been particularly successful. That’s because the Supreme Court has largely struck down laws passed by cities and states attempting to regulate who can carry and purchase guns in America.

Some gun control advocates have pursued alternate efforts, such as buying up shares of gunmakers in an effort to bring about change from within the companies.

Lowy has already worked with the government of Mexico and lawyers in Canada to file three lawsuits against U.S. gunmakers in the last four years. In 2021, Mexico became the first country to sue U.S. gunmakers when it filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts contending that some of America’s biggest gun manufacturers, including Smith & Wesson, Barrett Firearms, Beretta U.S.A. Corp, Century International Arms, Colt’s Manufacturing Company, and Sturm, Ruger & Co., design, market, sell, and distribute guns in ways they know “routinely arm the drug cartels in Mexico.” (A Massachusetts judge dismissed the case September but Mexico plans to appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, which is based in Boston and which Mexican officials believe may be more sympathetic.) 

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