EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Gun dealers in Arizona have asked a federal judge to toss out Mexico’s lawsuit accusing them of selling weapons used by drug cartels to kill people south of the border.
In a Friday court filing, the dealers said the Mexican government has failed to show customers to whom they sold guns used them to commit violence. They also said U.S. law protects them from most civil lawsuits and that Mexico has no legal standing to sue them for acts committed by criminals in that country.
“The complaint does not allege that any defendants […] sell their guns to the cartels. Instead, Mexico’s theory is that – through a series of unspecified events – criminals acquire, sell and smuggle into Mexico the firearms originally sold by the defendants,” the dealers said in their filing.
U.S. Senior District Judge Cindy K. Jorgenson gave the Mexican government 60 days to respond to the motion and the defendants 30 days for a rebuttal before ruling on the motion.
Mexico in 2021 sued major American gunmakers under a similar premise: That they knew their guns would be used to kill people in Mexico and took no action to prevent that. A Massachusetts federal judge threw out that suit last year. But then Mexico went after retailers in Arizona.
The defendants include Diamondback Shooting Sports, SNG Tactical and Loan Prairie LLC of Tucson; Sprague Sports of Yuma and Ammo A-Z of Phoenix. The Mexican government said in its lawsuit the dealers “systematically participate in trafficking military-style weapons and ammunition to drug cartels in Mexico by supplying gun traffickers.”
It further alleges the defendants know or should know their “reckless and unlawful business practices” including straw sales and bulk and repeat sales of military-style weapons are going to dangerous criminals in Mexico and the U.S.
The lawsuit says U.S. authorities last year indicted several individuals for trafficking into Mexico guns they bought at stores owned by the defendants. It cites a federal indictment against a man named Jose Rodrigo Felix-Quiroz and eight alleged accomplices that bought 57 guns in Yuma during a six-month period and sold them in Mexico, where gun sales are banned except by special permit from the Mexican army.
The Mexican government further alleges the defendants “have made Arizona a center of gun trafficking into Mexico.”
But the gun dealers said in their Friday filing that U.S. law protects them from civil lawsuits resulting from the criminal or unlawful misuse of a firearm by a third party. Negligence exceptions apply when the buyer makes unreasonable use of a gun to cause injury, but there are no allegations that the buyers themselves used the weapons to injure others.
“What Mexico describes is typical firearms sales transactions. The complaint does not come close to establishing ‘a unified agenda’ to engage in straw purchases or firearm trafficking transactions or in any way participate in the exportation of firearms to Mexico,” the defendants said in their filing.
The dealers also say they’re not economically liable for damages to Mexico.