Austin Knudsen

Attorney General Knudsen leads coalition fighting lawsuit against American gun companies

Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen is leading a coalition of 20 states against Mexico’s lawsuit against the American firearms industry. In an amicus brief filed Thursday, the 20 attorneys general seek to shield the law-abiding firearms manufacturers within their borders.

The Mexican government is pursuing a $10 billion claim against multiple prominent U.S. firearms manufacturers, holding them responsible for the violence occurring within their country. Although a U.S. District Judge dismissed the lawsuit last September, the Mexican government has appealed the decision. In response, the coalition led by Montana has filed an amicus brief, urging the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit to uphold the district court’s rulings and dismiss all allegations against the American companies.

“Mexico advances a legal theory that is unsupported by fact or law. On the facts, American gun manufacturers are not responsible for gun violence in Mexico. Rather, policy choices by the Mexican government, policy failures in the United States, and independent criminal actions by third parties are alone responsible for gun violence in Mexico,” the coalition’s brief states. “And on the law, even if Mexico could establish but-for causation between the manufacture of guns in America and gun violence in Mexico, intervening criminal actions preclude finding proximate causation between a gun’s legal sale and the harm caused by it.”

In its legal action, Mexico attributed the surge in gun violence within its borders to the expiration of the U.S. “assault-weapons ban” in 2004. However, the homicide rate actually decreased during the three years following the termination of the American ban. The rise in homicide rates occurred subsequent to Mexico’s declaration of war against the drug cartels in late 2006.

Prior to the crackdown, Mexico faced significant levels of corruption, with government officials accepting bribes from cartels, facilitating the relatively smooth smuggling of drugs across the border. This environment allowed cartels to expand their influence, establish territories, and flood the United States with illicit drugs. However, the subsequent crackdown initiated a wave of violence, characterized by widespread killings and the cartels resorting to “social terrorism” through the targeting and abduction of children until Mexican authorities retreated from their territories. As a result, drug-related homicides more than doubled, and Mexico experienced a 57% increase in its overall homicide rate from 2007 to 2008 alone.

Mexico contends that American firearms are prominently found and recovered at crime scenes within the country, but research suggests that only a minority of such firearms—estimated to be around 12% by some experts, while Mexican officials estimate it to be as low as 18%—can be traced back to the United States. Among those firearms, many were originally sold to the Mexican military or law enforcement but ultimately ended up in the hands of cartels due to desertion or other factors within the military or law enforcement agencies.

The coalition led by Knudsen asserts that American gun manufacturers should not be held responsible for the criminal misuse of their firearms by cartels, even if they are being utilized in the commission of crimes. The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) safeguards these manufacturers from liability when they lawfully sell or produce firearms within the United States. This law was enacted specifically in response to lawsuits initiated by anti-gun organizations aiming to financially cripple the firearms industry, which is akin to the tactics now employed by Mexico in this case.

“The activity that Congress shielded from liability — the production and sale of firearms — occurred entirely in the United States and is protected from the criminal actions of third parties, wherever that might occur,” the attorneys general wrote in the brief. “Mexico’s lawsuit rests on a legal theory that is unsupported by fact or law. This Court should affirm the district court and dismiss all claims against Defendants.”

Joining Attorney General Knudsen are attorneys general from Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

BY: Big Sky Headlines Staff