Steve Shadowen was joined in Boston’s First Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday by Jonathan Lowy, founder of Global Action on Gun Violence, in arguing to reinstate a $10 billion lawsuit against U.S.-based gun manufacturers.
The gun manufacturers, which are alleged to market and distribute firearms across the border to criminal organizations in Mexico, have argued that the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) prevents the lawsuit from proceeding. Mr. Shadowen refuted those arguments, pointing out that the law protects gun manufacturers from civil liability only for injuries in the United States.
The Complaint, authored by the Shadowen team and Mr. Lowy, alleges that the manufacturers knowingly allow dealers and straw purchasers to make bulk purchases of assault rifles that can be easily modified into machine guns for sale to the cartels. The appeals court judges considered Mr. Shadowen’s plea that Mexico seeks not only damages, but also a court order that could help prevent the 20,000 deaths a year in Mexico that the manufacturers’ actions are alleged to cause.
“What we want is an injunction to make these defendants start paying attention to their distribution systems, and it’s only U.S. courts that can provide that injunctive relief,” Mr. Shadowen said.
Mexico’s recent brief filed by the Shadowen team argues that over 68% of the more than 500,000 guns trafficked each year from the U.S. into Mexico are made or distributed by the eight companies it sued, including well-known brands like Smith & Wesson, Glock Inc., and Beretta. Mr. Shadowen argued to the First Circuit judges that the defendants know that their guns wind up in the hands of Mexico’s criminal factions, but still choose not to monitor their distribution systems.
Judge William Kayatta Jr. sharply questioned counsel for the gunmakers, comparing the situation to pharmacies that have been held legally liable for actions that stoked the fires of the opioid epidemic.
“Suppose [the manufacturers] know this retailer X on the border with Mexico, and that it’s ordering huge quantities of guns and they know that those guns are being sold to cartel members…. Are you saying that wouldn’t be enough for aiding and abetting liability?” Kayatta asked.
Mexico’s groundbreaking case continues to progress through the federal court system, putting additional pressure on a gun industry that has come increasingly under fire as gun deaths pile up in the U.S. and worldwide.