Attorney General Bonta Supports Mexican Government’s Argument in Lawsuit Against U.S. Gun Manufacturers

Tuesday, February 1, 2022
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OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta took steps today to hold gun manufacturers accountable for their contributions to gun violence in Mexico. Attorney General Bonta joined a coalition of state attorneys general in filing an amicus brief supporting the Mexican government’s lawsuit against gun manufacturers Smith & Wesson, Beretta, Ruger, Glock, Century Arms, Barrett, and Colt; as well as gun distributor Interstate Arms. According to a 2020 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives estimates that 70% of the firearms recovered in Mexico from 2014 through 2018 originated in the United States. In today’s brief, the attorneys general oppose the defendants’ motion to dismiss the suit and argue that the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) does not shield the companies from accountability.

“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,” said Attorney General Bonta. “In most industries, companies are well-aware that they can be held accountable if their product is defective or harmful to consumers — firearms should be no different. While the law may grant firearms manufacturers some protection, it is not a free pass to knowingly allow their products to land in dangerous hands. As we continue our work to hold firearm makers accountable here in California, we have to ensure both state and federal laws are being interpreted properly and these companies are not able to operate with impunity.”

Last August, the Mexican government filed a lawsuit against eight gun manufacturers and distributors alleging the companies have been fully aware that their firearms are being trafficked into the country and that they have a duty to ensure their products are used safely. In November, the defendants asked the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts to dismiss Mexico’s claim.

In Mexico, legally purchasing a firearm is nearly impossible. The country has one gun store and issues fewer than 50 gun permits per year. Despite this, an estimated 200,000 firearms are trafficked into Mexico from the United States every year.

In today’s brief, the attorneys general oppose the defendants’ argument that PLCAA shields them from accountability for their role in fueling the rampant gun violence in Mexico. The coalition argues PLCAA allows gun manufacturers and sellers to be held liable when they themselves violate consumer protection laws related to the sale and marketing of guns. Mexico’s lawsuit alleges that the companies — not a third party — knowingly violated laws applicable to the sale or marketing of firearms. 

In filing today’s brief, Attorney General Bonta is joined the attorneys general of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, and Oregon, as well as the District of Columbia. 

Attorney General Bonta is committed to keeping Californians safe, including by promoting and defending commonsense gun laws at the state and federal level. Last November, Attorney General Bonta secured a victory in a lawsuit challenging California’s ban on large-capacity magazines. In September, Attorney General Bonta led a coalition of state attorneys general in filing an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court defending New York’s law regulating when individuals may obtain a license to carry firearms in public. In August, Attorney General Bonta supported a Proposed Rule by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives that would help regulate ghost guns by clarifying the agency’s definition of what qualifies as a firearm. Attorney General Bonta has also urged Californians to use the state’s Gun Violence Restraining Order law to help keep firearms out of the hands of individuals who pose a threat to themselves or others. Attorney General Bonta is currently defending the state’s assault weapons ban

A copy of the brief is available here.

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