Estados Unidos Mexicanos v. Smith & Wesson Brands Inc., et al.: Defending gun safety across the border
Case Information: Estados Unidos Mexicanos v. Smith & Wesson Brands Inc., et al., No. 1:21-cv-11269-FDS (United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, filed January 31, 2022)
At Issue: The irresponsible business practices of gun manufacturers like Defendant Smith & Wesson have driven extreme violence in Mexico. The Mexican government is now suing several gun manufacturers in the United States stating that they each manufacture, market, and sell military-style or high-capacity weapons that fuel widespread violence in Mexico. These gun manufacturers respond that because they manufacture and sell lawful products that they cannot be responsible for such damage. However, our brief argues that public nuisance law can and should be used to hold these manufacturers accountable.
Our Brief: Our brief, filed jointly with Everytown for Gun Safety, the Violence Policy Center, March For Our Lives, Global Exchange, and the Newtown Action Alliance, argues that the Court should hear the Mexican government’s claims. The gun manufacturers’ activities constitute a classic public nuisance: an unreasonable interference with public health, safety, and order. They manufacture and sell military-style weapons and high-capacity semiautomatic firearms without implementing any safeguards to prevent trafficking, and in fact market the firearms in a manner that facilitates trafficking. Although decades of evidence render this profitable trafficking a foreseeable consequence of Defendants’ current design, sales, marketing, and distribution practices, they have taken no action to prevent this.
Although the defendants believe that lawful manufacturing defends their actions against public nuisance claims, there is in fact no rule stating so. Instead, courts applying nuisance law have emphasized the flexible nature of public nuisance and its application to otherwise lawful activities.
The Mexican government’s claims fall under three criteria considered by courts: these practices significantly interfere with public safety, are forbidden by law, and have a long-lasting effect that the manufacturers have reason to know has a significant impact on public safety. We further argue that even if the Court were to find that manufacturers had otherwise followed the law, they can be held accountable under the other two parts of this test. Moreover, other states have heard public nuisance cases against gun manufacturers.