The attorneys general filed a brief saying that firearm manufacturers cannot claim certain legal protections to shield themselves against the Mexican government’s claims.
The attorneys general of 13 states and Washington, D.C., have lent their support to a lawsuit filed by the Mexican government against a number of American firearm manufacturers.
According to CNN, the Democratic attorneys general filed a brief in a Massachusetts court arguing against the defendant companies’ motion to dismiss, saying that existing federal law shielding gun-makers from litigation is not applicable.
“While the law may grant firearms manufacturers some protection, it is not a free pass to knowingly allow their products to land in dangerous hands,” California Attorney General Rob Bonta said in a statement.
CNN notes that the attorneys general objected to firearm manufacturers’ invocation of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, or PLCAA, which typically prevents gun-makers from liability if their products are used in a crime.
The defendant companies, which include Smith & Wesson, Colt, and Glock, cited the PLCAA in their motion to dismiss the Mexican government’s lawsuit.
“Mexico can, of course, impose gun control within its own borders,” the companies’ attorneys wrote in their motion to dismiss. “But in this case it seeks to reach outside its borders and punish firearms sales that are not only lawful but constitutionally protected in the United States.”
However, Bonta’s office said that the PLCAA cannot “shield the companies from accountability.”
“Mexico’s lawsuit alleges that the defendants themselves knowingly violated common law duties and statutes applicable to the sale or marketing of firearms,” attorneys generals’ brief said. “PLCAA is not, accordingly, a valid defense to Mexico’s lawsuit.”
And, on Tuesday, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey issued a news release asking a Massachusetts-based federal court to acknowledge that gun-makers, dealers, and distributors can sometimes be liable for how their products are marketed and sold.
“It is unacceptable for gun manufacturers and distributors to knowingly market their products in a way that facilitates the illegal trafficking of weapons into the hands of dangerous individuals,” Healey said.
Firearm industry advocates and lobbyists have already fired back, saying the lawsuit and attorneys generals’ brief are misplaced.
“The Mexican government should focus on bringing the Mexican drug cartels to justice in Mexican courtrooms,” said Lawrence G. Keane, senior vice president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation. “Not filing a baseless lawsuit in an American court to deflect attention from its disgraceful and corrupt failure to protect its citizens.”
“The manufacturers are not legally responsible for the subsequent criminal misuse of their legally sold, non-defective firearms by remote third persons over whom those manufacturers have no control,” Keane added. “And this lawsuit ignores the fact that the firearms only end up in Mexico through the criminal actions of third parties.”