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Mexico's lawsuit against American gun manufacturers is revived by appeals court

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

For years, Mexico has been trying to sue American gun manufacturers, claiming the firearms they produce are smuggled across the U.S.-Mexico border each year. And Mexico says these guns are arming drug cartels and fueling violence across the country. Well, a lower court dismissed the case in 2022, but yesterday a federal appeals court in Boston ruled the lawsuit can go forward. Joining me now is Mexico's co-counsel, Jonathan Lowy. He's also founder and president of Global Action on Gun Violence. Jonathan Lowy, welcome.

JONATHAN LOWY: Thanks for having me.

KELLY: OK. Well, connect the dots. I mean, make the case for what you want to link between gun manufacturers and the trafficking that is flooding Mexico with guns.

LOWY: Sure. Well, Mexico alleges and intends to prove that, for decades, gun manufacturers have known how their guns are trafficked to the illegal market in Mexico and here in the United States. They know that there's a small group of bad apple gun dealers - about 5% of gun dealers - selling about 90% of the crime guns. They know that many of these sales are bulk sales of a number of assault weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition. And manufacturers could require their dealers to sell guns responsibly and cut off the bad ones, but they choose not to in order to profit off the criminal market.

KELLY: Well, let me let you respond to a statement from the National Shooting Sports Federation. This, as you know, is a trade association for gun manufacturers. Their general counsel says Mexico should, quote, "focus on bringing Mexican drug cartels to justice in Mexican courtrooms, not filing a baseless lawsuit in an American court to deflect attention from its disgraceful and corrupt failure to protect its citizens." What do you think?

LOWY: Well, Mexico is doing a lot of work to protect its people and to stop the cartels from trafficking fentanyl and causing violence. The problem is the cartels are so heavily armed with U.S. guns that they cannot get in Mexico. Mexico has very strong gun laws that makes it very difficult for criminals to get guns.

KELLY: One of the biggest sellers of handguns in the U.S. is actually not an American company. It's a Brazilian company, Taurus. Is Mexico planning to sue them, too?

LOWY: Well, I'm not going to go into their legal strategy, but certainly, Mexico has been clear from the start that this lawsuit is not the end of the story.

KELLY: You mentioned going after bad apple dealers. Is that coming? Why not go after them?

LOWY: Well, Mexico does have a pending lawsuit in federal court in Arizona against a handful of gun dealers there. We had a sense of the problem, and we allege this in the complaint. There was one gun dealer in Arizona that sold over 650 guns that were trafficked to the cartels. Another gun dealer in Texas sold over 150 guns to a single gun trafficker that was supplying the cartels.

KELLY: Are there consequences for Americans? And I guess I'm asking, you know - putting that question to you as someone who has spent decades advocating for gun violence prevention. Do you see any consequences for this inside the United States?

LOWY: Absolutely. In fact, I think the United States would benefit even more greatly than Mexico because these irresponsible practices by the gun manufacturers supplying the criminal market are supplying virtually all crime guns in the United States. So Mexico will see cartels with less arms. That will help people in the United States because it will enable to stop the fentanyl trafficking and the violence that's spurring migration. And it will also lead to fewer crime guns on streets in U.S. cities.

KELLY: That is Mexico's co-counsel, Jonathan Lowy. He is also founder and president of Global Action on Gun Violence. Thank you.

LOWY: Thank you.

KELLY: And we have reached out to the gun manufacturers named in the lawsuit. We have not yet received comment.

(SOUNDBITE OF LADY WRAY SONG, "GET READY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Erika Ryan
Erika Ryan is a producer for All Things Considered. She joined NPR after spending 4 years at CNN, where she worked for various shows and CNN.com in Atlanta and Washington, D.C. Ryan began her career in journalism as a print reporter covering arts and culture. She's a graduate of the University of South Carolina, and currently lives in Washington, D.C., with her dog, Millie.
Sarah Handel
Mary Louise Kelly
Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.