World

Mexico’s Misguided Lawsuit against American Gun Companies

Police officers work at a crime scene where gunmen killed at least 13 Mexican police officers in an ambush in Coatepec Harinas, Mexico, March 19, 2021. (Edgard Garrido/Reuters)
It will not make the country any safer.

Mexican officials, assisted by the gun-control group Brady United, filed a lawsuit against several U.S.-based firearm manufacturers alleging that these companies encouraged gun trafficking into Mexico. Mexico seeks $10 billion in damages and injunctive relief. They claim the firearm manufacturers are responsible for the rampant crime, corruption, and uncontrolled murders being committed in Mexico by Mexican drug cartels.

These allegations are baseless. The Mexican government is responsible for its failure to enforce its own laws and control rampant crime and corruption within its own borders and government.

The lawsuit is the anti-gun lobby’s latest attempt to undermine the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA). Passed in 2005 with broad bipartisan support, the law forbids lawsuits that attempt to blame members of the firearms industry for the criminal misuse of lawfully sold firearms by remote third parties over whom industry members have no control. It’s the same legal concept that would keep victims of criminal drunk driving from suing Budweiser and Ford. No manufacturer of a non-defective product that is lawfully sold is legally responsible for the subsequent criminal misuse of the product. The PLCAA simply codifies this bedrock legal principle.

That doesn’t faze Brady United or the Mexican government. They are willing to overlook basic facts about legal firearm sales in the United States, illegal smuggling of guns, and well-documented corruption in the Mexican government that aids drug-fueled crime within its borders.

Firearm manufacturers in the United States produce a lawful product. Every citizen is able to exercise the right to keep and bear arms, provided they pass a background check required by Congress and administered by the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). This is the rule for every firearm sold at retail in America, including by retailers at gun shows. Further, licensed firearm retailers are required to report to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) sales of two or more handguns to the same person at one time or within five business days. And for years, retailers along the southwest border have had to do the same for rifles, including modern sporting rifles.

Mexico alleges that its rampant murder, crime, and corruption are caused by U.S.-based firearm manufacturers. This logic is flawed, even with the most basic understanding of the facts. The United States shares a border with Canada, yet Canada does not have a problem with U.S.-origin firearms being misused by Canadian drug cartels. The reason for the differing results within each bordering country is Mexico.

Mexico doesn’t have Second Amendment rights, making it nearly impossible for Mexican citizens to legally purchase firearms for self-protection. In fact, there is just one licensed firearm retailer in Mexico, and that is within the confines of a Mexican military base. All legal imports are preapproved by Mexico and the U.S. government.

Yet narco-terrorism runs rampant throughout Mexico. It is ranked among the top ten most corrupt countries in the world, in the same company as Iraq, Colombia, and Russia. The former leader of Mexico’s federal police, Genaro García Luna, was arrested in Dallas in 2019 on charges he was taking millions in bribes from the Sinaloa cartel. García Luna denies the charges and is awaiting trial.

Mexican officials are unwilling, and often unable, to address the unchecked corruption that fuels violence and crime. Instead, they blame the rampant violence on law-abiding firearm manufacturers in United States. These are the same firearm manufacturers that support the industry’s Real Solutions® campaign. These are cooperative partnerships with ATF to prevent illegal straw purchases of firearms (that is, purchases made by a third party for someone who cannot legally buy them himself) and prevent theft and robbery of firearm retailers. These efforts also include the industry’s FIX NICS® initiative, to ensure that all disqualifying background records are submitted to the FBI so that its background-check system can work as intended. These include safety initiatives that have distributed over 40 million free firearm-safety kits with locking devices through partnerships with 15,000 law-enforcement agencies in every state and U.S. territory as well as a suicide-prevention partnership with the largest suicide-prevention organization in America.

The firearm industry is leading the effort to ensure that firearms stay out of the hands of those who should never possess them. The Mexican government can’t say the same for its own efforts on its side of the border. Since 2008 the United States has provided over $1.6 billion to prevent transnational drug transport, organized crime, and money laundering through the Merida Initiative. Mexico’s arrogance is on full display when it marches into a U.S. courtroom to levy charges against lawful firearm manufacturers while at the same time pocketing U.S. taxpayer dollars and doing nothing to enforce its own laws.

The lawsuit, though, isn’t happening in a vacuum. Besides being assisted by the Brady gun-control group, it comes on the heels of New York’s embattled soon-to-be-former Governor Andrew Cuomo’s signing a law that attempts to work around PLCAA and encourages suits against gun makers. It also comes within days of the Biden administration’s announcement of a meeting with Democratic attorneys general from seven states and the District of Columbia in a renewed effort to repeal the law and to bring lawsuits against the firearm industry.

The meeting is striking, as the Department of Justice has defended the constitutionality of PLCAA in an ongoing lawsuit in Pennsylvania. In fact, courts across the country have upheld its legality time and again. The Biden administration, though, has made repealing PLCAA a priority, despite knowing the votes to do so don’t exist in the Senate. So now Biden is seeking ways to circumvent the will of Congress and impose gun control with “regulation through litigation,” or else to bankrupt and shutter the industry and with it the Second Amendment.

If you’re looking for someone who has been complicit in cross-border gun running, look no further than President Joe Biden. He was vice president during the Obama administration’s reckless Operation Fast and Furious, in which Attorney General Eric Holder’s Department of Justice allowed firearms to be illegally trafficked across the U.S.–Mexico border. Those firearms weren’t tracked once they were smuggled into Mexico. The bungled operation came to light after border agent Brian Terry was murdered by a Mexican national who possessed one of the firearms. Firearms from that ill-fated operation were recovered on both sides of the border, including a rifle that was found at the house of the notorious drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.

The firearm industry works diligently to keep firearms out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them, especially criminals. Those efforts are hampered by the corruption of Mexican politicians who take millions in bribes from drug cartels that hold their citizens hostage. Mexico’s lawsuit is as cynical as it is preposterous. They would rather drag American gun companies into American courts than bring Mexican criminal cartels into their own.

Lawrence G. Keane is the senior vice president of government relations and public affairs and general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms and ammunition industry’s trade association.

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