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Mexico's lawsuit against Arizona gun dealers can proceed, US judge rules

FILE PHOTO: A sign warns that firearms and ammunition are barred in Mexico

By Nate Raymond

(Reuters) -A U.S. judge on Monday ruled that the Mexican government could move forward with a lawsuit accusing five Arizona gun dealers of participating in the trafficking of weapons and ammunition to drug cartels across the U.S.-Mexico border.

U.S. District Judge Rosemary Marquez in Tucson rejected arguments that a U.S. law that provides the firearms industry broad protection from lawsuits over their products' misuse precluded Mexico's claims against the gun dealers.

Those dealers - Diamondback Shooting Sports Inc, SnG Tactical LLC, Loan Prairie LLC, Ammo A-Z LLC, and Sprague's Sports Inc - argued the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) shielded them from the lawsuit Mexico filed in 2022.

Marquez said Mexico makes plausible claims that are exempt from PLCAA protection, including that the five companies violated various U.S. firearm-related laws, causing harm to the foreign nation.

Mexico alleged that the gun dealers facilitated the trafficking of military-style assault weapons like the AR-15 and ammunition to cartels through reckless and unlawful practices, including firearm sales to straw purchasers who illegally bought them for others.

While the judge allowed much of the lawsuit to move forward, she dismissed several of Mexico's individual legal claims, including that the companies violated U.S. racketeering law and created a public nuisance.

Lawyers for Mexico said they looked forward to proving their case in court, and Mexico's foreign ministry in a statement said it would continue to "defend its interests and those of its citizens through all means at its disposal."

"Today's ruling is a huge step forward in holding the gun industry accountable for its contribution to gun violence, and in stopping the flood of trafficked guns to the cartels," Jonathan Lowy, a lawyer for Mexico with the U.S.-based advocacy group Global Action on Gun Violence, said in a statement.

Defense attorneys did not respond to requests for comment.

Mexico sued the Arizona dealers days after a federal judge in Boston dismissed a $10 billion lawsuit it filed in 2021 seeking to hold several U.S. gun manufacturers responsible for facilitating weapons trafficking across the U.S.-Mexico border.

A U.S. appeals court in January revived that lawsuit against manufacturers including Smith & Wesson Brands, and Sturm, Ruger & Co. The manufacturers are planning to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their appeal.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Additional reporting by Kyle Madry in Mexico City; Editing by Richard Chang and Michael Perry)