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Michigan AG backs Mexico suit against U.S.-based gun companies

Nessel's office joins coalition of 17 American attorneys general
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel's office has filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in the case Estados Unidos Mexicanos v. Smith & Wesson Brands et al.

The move adds Michigan to a coalition of 17 attorneys general in support of the government of Mexico’s lawsuit against seven U.S.-based gun manufacturers and a gun distributor.

Mexico’s lawsuit alleges the defendants designed, marketed, distributed, and sold guns in a way they knew appealed to drug cartels and violent gangs in Mexico, a news release states. The defendants successfully moved to dismiss the case on the theory that Mexico’s claims were barred under the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. The coalition of attorneys general had supported Mexico in the lower court, urging that court to construe PLCAA narrowly, and is now continuing that support on appeal of the dismissal.

In their brief, the attorneys general describe the states’ interests in upholding public safety and preserving state-law remedies for misconduct by gun manufacturers and sellers. To further these interests, the coalition urges the court to recognize that the PLCAA creates only a narrow restriction on state-law remedies against the firearms industry, the release added. Under PLCAA’s plain terms, the coalition argues, gun manufacturers and dealers are not exempt from liability when they violate state or federal laws governing the sale and marketing of firearms.

“Gun manufacturers and dealers cannot be allowed to hide behind PLCAA when they violate certain state and federal laws,” Nessel said. “As with the coalition states, Mexico has seen the scourge that gun violence has caused in its country and has sought to hold gun manufacturers accountable when their products are put in the hands of dangerous criminals. I stand with my colleagues in asking the First Circuit to correct the lower court’s error.”

The coalition argues that, when Congress enacted PLCAA, it did so with the intention of striking a balance: exempting gun manufacturers and sellers from liability for harms inflicted solely because of third parties’ unlawful conduct, while also expressly preserving liability where gun industry members themselves violate state or federal laws applicable to the sale or marketing of firearms. PLCAA thus does not grant broad immunity for gun manufacturers and sellers and does not stand in the way of actions, like the one brought by Mexico, alleging that the defendants knowingly violated state or federal statutes applicable to the sale or marketing of firearms.

A full copy of the brief can be found here.

The brief, led by Massachusetts Attorney General Andrea Joy Campbell, is also joined by the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont.