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Federal Judge Will Let Mexican Government Continue Lawsuit Against Arizona Gun Dealers

— March 30, 2024

The Arizona-based federal trial court found that state-level laws and constitutional protections cannot shield certain firearm dealers from a liability lawsuit led by the Mexican government.

An Arizona-based court recently determined that the Mexican government may proceed litigating claims against five American firearms dealers accused of facilitating international arms smuggling.

According to The Guardian, attorneys for Mexico allege that the defendant companies’ marketing campaigns and distribution practices are negligent—and that each of the dealers should therefore be found liable for widespread crime- and drug-related violence south of the U.S. border.

In her ruling. U.S. District Judge Rosemary Marquez rejected arguments raised by the firearms dealers, whose attorneys claimed that their clients were engaged in lawful enterprise—enterprise permitted by Arizona law—and that the Mexican government has thus far failed to establish that weapons sold by the businesses had been used to commit violent crimes.

Marquez, notes the Arizona Daily Star, found that the complaint is substantive enough for a jury to decide if the defendant dealers sold guns to suspicious persons in so-called “straw purchases,” in which an authorized buyer legally obtains a firearm with the intent to re-sell or otherwise transfer it to another party.

Furthermore, Marquez observed that the Mexican government has repeatedly said that it possesses evidence to establish that many of the weapons seized within its borders can be traced back to the five companies named in the complaint.

A close-up image of an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle. Image via Wikimedia Commons/Steve Rainwater. (CCA-BY-2.0)

But, most significantly, the court soundly dismissed arguments that the defendants’ alleged activities are protected by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“The Second Amendment does not protect unlawful firearm sales,” wrote Marquez, who observed that federal law regulates the international exportation of firearms while also prohibiting straw purchases.

“The complaint,” Marquez said, “plausibly alleges that, as a result of red flags including straw sales, bulk sales, cash sales, and repeat sales of military-style weapons favored by Mexico cartels, defendants knew or should have known that firearms they sold would ultimately be provided to and used by cartel members for unlawful purposes.”

The judge also said that Mexico has provided sufficiently compelling reasons for its lawsuit and request for damages.

“Specifically, the complaint alleges that defendants know military-style assault weapons are preferred by violent cartels in Mexico and routinely trafficked into Mexico but that, despite this knowledge, defendants profit by continuing to engage in straw sales, multiple sales, and repeat sales to buyers who are in essence agents of the cartels, with such conduct foreseeable [sic] resulting in harm from gun violence in Mexico,” Marquez said.

However, Marquez also dismissed several of the charges levied by the Mexican government’s lawsuit, including allegations that the defendants violated both anti-racketeering statutes and state consumer-protection laws.


Arizona court rules Mexico can proceed with lawsuit against five US gun dealers

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