If the government of Mexico thought taking on the American firearms industry would be an easy win, it better think again. Last month, Mexico City brought a lawsuit, filed in U.S. federal court against U.S. gun makers, which seeks to hold the companies liable for allegedly contributing to the surge of firearms flowing unlawfully into the country.
The August 4 complaint accused some of the largest American firearms firms, including Smith & Wesson Brands Inc.; Barret Firearms; Beretta USA; Colt‘s Manufacturing Company; Strum, Ruger & Company; and Glock Inc. of “persistently supplying a torrent of guns,” which made its way to Mexico’s drug cartels. The 139-page complaint also stated that “Defendants’ unlawful conduct has substantially reduced the life expectancy of Mexican citizens and cost the Government billions of dollars a year.
Century International Arms, which imports the Romanian-made version of the AK-47 semi-automatic rifle, was also named in the lawsuit.
Mexico is represented by attorneys at Shadowen and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, and has claimed that the gun-makers engaged in negligence, nuisance, and ran afoul of Connecticut and Massachusetts consumer protection laws.
“The gun manufacturers have access to real-time sales data, and trace requests by the ATF, that they could use to identify corrupt gun dealers,” attorney Steve Shadowen wrote in an email in August. “They have refused to do it. The government of Mexico says it is negligent — outrageous — for the manufacturers to refuse to stop these corrupt gun traffickers when they have the ability to do it.”
It has been reported that Mexico has already agreed to pay Shadowen’s firm up to $1 million annually to represent the country in its lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts. The firm has also announced that it would cut its hourly rates in half as part of its work for Mexico.
On Tuesday in a court filing, Jones Day, Cozen O’Connor and Day Pitney said they would be representing the defendants in the case in Massachusetts federal court. According to Reuters, the firms are working with litigation boutiques and other regional law offices to coordinate a joint brief that will respond to Mexico’s claims.
Jones Day partner Noel Francisco, who heads up the firm’s Washington, D.C. office, is representing the Massachusetts-based Smith & Wesson with partner Andrew Lelling. Francisco had previously served as U.S. solicitor general in the administration of former President Donald Trump, while is a former U.S. attorney for Massachusetts and had joined the firm in February to help build up the Boston office.
Connecticut-based Ruger is being represented by Day Pitney, and the Chicago-based firm Swanson, Martin & Bell. Philadelphia-based Cozen O’Connor appeared on the filing for defendant Beretta USA Corp, while lawyers at the products liability firm Cornell & Gollub in Boston are representing Glock Inc. with the White Plains, New York-based Renzulli Law Firm.
James Campbell of Campbell Conroy & O’Neil; and James Porter of Porter Porter & Hassinger are representing Barrett Firearms Manufacturing Inc. Colt’s Manufacturing Company is being represented by John O’Neill of Sugarman, Rogers, Barshak & Cohen; and Michael Rice of Harrison Law – while Jonathan Handler of Day Pitney, and James Vogts of Swanson, Martin & Bell are representing Sturm, Ruger & Co Inc. Century International Arms Inc. is being defended by Joseph Yannetti of Morrison Mahoney, and Anthony Pisciotti of Pisciotti Lallis Erdreich.
The $10 Billion Case
The government of Mexico is seeking at least $10 billion compensation, based on the damage that was caused by the trafficked weapons to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), which last year was more than $1.2 trillion. Alejandro Celorio, legal advisor for the ministry, said in August damage caused by the trafficked guns would be equal to 1.7 percent to 2 percent of the GDP.
“We don’t do it to pressure the United States,” Celorio said. “We do it so there aren’t deaths in Mexico.”
The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the U.S. firearm industry’s trade association, said in a statement in August that it also rejected Mexico’s allegations of negligence.
“These allegations are baseless. The Mexican government is responsible for the rampant crime and corruption within their own borders,” said Lawrence G. Keane, the trade group’s senior vice president and general counsel. He added that Mexican government is responsible for enforcing its laws.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.