Frustrated by years of political inaction in the U.S., gun control advocates have come up with innovative ways to force firearm companies to take more responsibility for gun violence. Jonathan Lowy is the former chief legal counsel at the Brady Center to prevent gun violence.

The group will work with other countries to argue that their citizens are hurt by the actions of American gunmakers.

Lowy filed papers to register as a foreign agent to provide legal and consulting services to the Mexican government.

A solution to gun violence in the United States and around the world could be found through litigation and other pressure from the international community according to Lowy. This isn't something that's been tried before.

Jonathan Lowy speaks during a news conference on Sept. 8, 2014, in Philadelphia. (Matt Rourke—AP)

As U.S. gunmaker profits reach all-time highs, Lowy is embarking on a new mission. In the wake of several mass shootings, American support of stricter gun control has risen, but efforts to hold gunmakers responsible through the legal system have not been successful. The Supreme Court has largely struck down laws that attempted to regulate who can carry and purchase guns in America.

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Three lawsuits against U.S. gunmakers have been filed by Lowy in the last four years. Mexico was the first country to file a lawsuit against US gunmakers. Mexico plans to appeal the Massachusetts judge's dismissal of the case to the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. In October of this year, Mexico filed a lawsuit in Arizona District Court against five Arizona gun dealers, accusing them of being involved in the sale of military-style weapons and bullets to the Mexican drug traffickers. Mexico claims that some of the guns bought from U.S. dealers were used in high-profile killings.

In Canada, Lowy is working as a foreign legal counsel in a class action against Smith & Wesson that was brought by victims of a mass shooting in Toronto who alleged that the company was negligent when it did not implement available safety measures. The case was allowed to proceed in 2021, but it is still being argued.

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The argument that protecting human lives is more important than protecting the gun industry has been rejected by the courts. He says that the position has been rejected by the Supreme Court in the US. The rest of the world doesn't think that's right.

Despite strict gun control laws, there has been an increase in guns crossing the border. While addressing the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September, Prime Minister Andrew Holness said that Jamaica does not manufacture guns, but its population suffers from the effects of guns. He called on countries that make guns to make sure their weapons don't end up in the wrong hands. 200 guns are smuggled into the country each month from the U.S.

In August 2022, the US Department of Homeland Security said it had seen an increase in the number of weapons and bullets being smuggled to Haiti and the Caribbean. The president of the Dominican Republic expressed concern about the large number of illegal guns in the country after officials seized a shipment of high- caliber rifles at one of its ports. According to testimony by Toronto Police Service deputy chief Myron Demkiw, almost all of the handguns used in crimes in Toronto were from the U.S. There is a problem with handguns from the United States.

The Mexican government says that 200,000 guns are smuggled into the country each year from the U.S. According to the United Nations, Mexico has some of the strictest gun control laws in the world, prohibiting citizens from owning high-powered weapons and only issuing a few thousand handgun permits in the last ten years. According to a report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, 70% of the guns recovered in Mexico in the last four years were from the U.S.

The argument over gunmakers’ responsibility

The Mexican legal complaints argue that U.S. gunmakers have a duty to carefully sell and distribute their guns, but that instead they distribute to dealers that "recklessly or illegally" sell guns, and who frequently sell guns in bulk sales. There are ways to make guns safer. Smith & Wesson agreed to develop so-called "smart guns" that could only be fired by their owner in exchange for the withdrawal of lawsuits against the company. The company dropped the plan after retailers objected to it. Mexico claims that the company didn't live up to its promises.

The same types of guns used for mass shootings in the U.S. are used by Mexican drug traffickers, according to Alejandro Alcntara, the legal adviser of Mexico. Alcntara says the idea to file a lawsuit against U.S. gunmakers came after a Walmart shooting in El Paso, Texas in which a man killed 23 people. He says that the AK-47 used by the suspect was imported from Romania by Century Arms. According to Alcntara, Mexico's Foreign Minister, Marcelo Ebrard, ordered his legal team to find all legal actions that could be taken to hold these guys accountable. Century Arms imports firearms and modifies them for the U.S. market, but Mexico decided against pursuing legal claims against the company.

Mexico's legal argument hinges on the idea that it is hurt by the actions of gunmakers because of the economic impact of gun violence.

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Alcntara says that the Mexican government entertained the idea of suing gunmakers a decade or so ago, but Lowy helped the current administration figure out how to make the case now.

The Mexican government is trying to get the U.S. government to take action on gun control. A high-level security dialogue has been established between the US and Mexico. One more tool in Mexico is the legal action. At the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, he and Lowy will testify about the firearms industry's corporate responsibility for violating human rights in Mexico.

Alcntara says that the corporations are not doing anything.

According to a statement from the National Sports Shooting Foundation, Mexico's lawsuit is an insult to U.S. sovereignty and a threat to America's Second Amendment rights. Lawrence G. Keane, Senior Vice President and General Counsel of the NSSF, believes that the Mexican government is responsible for the crime within its borders, and that the Mexican government should focus on bringing the criminals to justice. Foreign governments can still pursue companies in the US courts. The U.S. Supreme Court has held for years that foreign nations have the right to prosecute civil claims in the U.S. courts.

The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, a 2005 law that protects gunmakers from litigation when their guns, has stopped victims of gun violence from trying to hold U.S. gunmakers accountable for where their products end up. The novel approach that Mexico and Lowy are taking in their recent lawsuits is to argue that the harm that occurred outside of the U.S. shouldn't affect the applicability of thePLCAA.

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One of the few examples of gun control advocates getting around the law was a recent settlement between the families of children killed at Sandy Hook. The ruling that the families could file a lawsuit was seen as a victory for gun control advocates, but it was actually a settlement. It means that other gunmakers won't have to change how they distribute their weapons.

Preventing a ‘global’ gun violence epidemic

Mexico isn't interested inSettling. Alcntara says that it has to win its case in order to get gunmakers to change their distribution systems.

Would you accept a settlement if you were asked to be the litigation's coordinators? Alcntara doesn't think so. We don't want to keep fighting. I don't want them to stay the same.

It could be difficult. Legal experts say getting a judge to allow the case to go forward would be a big step.

The lawsuits have changed the discussion about gun violence. He says that no government wants to be seen as pariahs by the world.

The outcome of the legal battle could have global ramifications. He says that without curbs on the U.S. gun industry, firearms will continue to find their way abroad and harm foreign citizens. He warns that the gun culture in the US will spread around the world.

The United States has a gun violence epidemic. If nothing is done to stop it, it could become a global epidemic.

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