On March 21, 2023 a coalition of attorneys general from 17 U.S. states filed an amicus brief on support of the Government of Mexico in its First Circuit appeal in the ground-breaking litigation Estados Unidos Mexicanos v. Smith & Wesson Brands et al.
Represented by Shadowen PLLC, the Government of Mexico alleges that the Defendants violated numerous laws applicable to gun sales—including U.S. federal statutes regulating straw purchases, gun exports, and gun licensing and possession, as well as Mexican law.
Mexico contends that, as a result, every year around 340,000 of the named Defendants’ guns are unlawfully imported from the United States into Mexico, and that drug cartels and other criminal organizations use these military-style weapons to wreak havoc in Mexico and terrorize its populace.
The U.S. state attorneys general amicus brief argue that the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PCLAA) does not shield arms manufacturers like Smith & Wesson and the other defendant manufacturers from facing accountability for knowingly violating laws regulating arms sales and marketing.
“Gun manufacturers and sellers seem to believe PLCAA gives them a free pass to make and distribute weapons they know are being trafficked and used to terrorize communities in Mexico. In most industries, companies are well-aware that they can be held accountable when they violate the law — firearms should be no different. We urge the court to reverse the district court decision and allow this case to move forward,” said California Attorney General Rob Bonta.
The Caribbean nations of Belize, Antigua and Barbuda, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago—along with a network of non-governmental organizations focused on combating arms trafficking— joined a separate amicus curiae brief supporting the Government of Mexico .
“As a sovereign nation, we’re making our voices heard and we’re standing alongside another sovereign nation that’s having the same problem that we have,” said Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Keith Rowley.
Attorney Nicholas Shadowen argues that PLCAA does not preclude claims for injuries incurred abroad resulting from gun misuse abroad.
“Caribbean nations are rightfully frustrated with the unlawful and devastating outflow of guns from the United States,” Shadowen says. “While the U.S. has the right to decide its domestic gun laws and policies, these gunmakers are asking the U.S. judicial system to insulate them not only from the harm they cause within the country, but globally as well. We fully expect the First Circuit to reject that notion.”
The Government of Mexico filed the appeal on March 15, 2023, and the litigation remains ongoing.