By Nate Raymond
BOSTON (Reuters) – Thirteen U.S. states and two Latin America and Caribbean nations on Monday threw their support behind a lawsuit from Mexico that accuses several major U.S. gun makers of facilitating the trafficking of weapons to drug cartels, leading to thousands of deaths.
The states and the countries of Antigua and Barbuda and Belize filed separate briefs urging a federal judge in Boston to not dismiss Mexico’s $10 billion lawsuit against companies including Smith & Wesson and Sturm, Ruger & Co.
The companies have argued Mexico has 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 makers from lawsuits over their products’ misuse.
Mexico’s lawyers in a filing on Monday countered that the law only precludes lawsuits over injuries that occur in the United States and would not shield the companies from allegations over the trafficking of guns to Mexican criminals.
Democratic attorneys general from 13 states including Massachusetts, California and New York along with the District of Columbia agreed, saying even if that law applied extraterritorially, the statute would not bar Mexico’s claims.
Representatives for the companies did not respond to requests for comment. Other defendants include Beretta USA, Barrett Firearms Manufacturing, Colt’s Manufacturing Co and Glock Inc.
In a lawsuit filed in August, Mexico claimed the companies undermined its 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.
Lawyers for Antigua and Barbuda and Belize argued countries in their region had likewise faced violent gun crimes and that U.S. gun manufacturers “must not be permitted to hold hostage the law-abiding citizens of an entire region of the world.”
(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)