U.S. arms manufacturers seek Supreme Court to halt lawsuit filed against them by Mexico


U.S. gun manufacturers are planning to ask the Supreme Court to consider their attempt to dismiss a $10 billion lawsuit by the Mexican government, which seeks to hold them responsible for facilitating arms trafficking to drug cartels across the border.

The planned appeal was revealed on Friday in a virtual court hearing by a lawyer from Smith & Wesson Brands, after last month the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston overturned a judge's decision to dismiss the case.

In the lawsuit filed in 2021, Mexico alleges that the companies undermined its strict gun laws by designing, marketing, and distributing military-style assault weapons in ways they knew would support drug cartels, facilitating murders, extortions, and kidnappings in the country.

The Mexican government claims that over 500,000 weapons are trafficked annually from the United States to Mexico, with more than 68% manufactured by the eight companies included in the case, including Sturm, Ruger & Co., Beretta USA, Barrett Firearms Manufacturing, Colt’s Manufacturing Co, and Glock Inc.

Mexico argues that smuggling has contributed to high rates of gun-related deaths, a decrease in investment and economic activity, and the need to spend more on public security. The companies deny the allegations.

Andrew Lelling, Smith & Wesson's lawyer, said in Friday's hearing that there was a "reasonably good chance" the Supreme Court would agree to hear their appeal and asked District Judge Dennis Saylor to put the case on hold until the judges decide on the petition.

Lelling added that the appeal would focus on whether Mexico's claims are barred by a federal law on arms trade known as PLCAA, which provides manufacturers with extensive protection against lawsuits for the misuse of their products.

"This case involves a statute specifically designed to allow this particular group of defendants to avoid the costs of litigation if the case in question falls within the statute's scope," he argued. "That same issue remains the one in dispute."

The First Circuit Court ruled on January 22 that while the federal law may apply to lawsuits from other countries, Mexico's case "plausibly alleges a kind of claim that is legally exempt from PLCAA's general prohibition."

Saylor said on Friday that he had "some reservations" about completely suspending the case pending an appeal to the Supreme Court. However, he made no decision and said he would decide on the matter on March 12.