Has Mexico found a way around gun companies’ special legal immunity?

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AUGUST 23, 2021
Good morning, Bulletin readers. We look at whether Mexico’s lawsuit against major players in the firearms industry can clear the U.S. law giving gun companies broad immunity from civil suits. The NRA’s convention hangs in the balance as key participants indicate they may stay away. And violent street clashes erupt in Portland. — Tom Kutsch, newsletter editor

NEW from THE TRACE: Mexico looks to bypass U.S. gun companies' special legal Immunity. On August 4, the Mexican government sued several major gunmakers and distributors in the United States, alleging that their negligent marketing and business practices had fueled cartel violence. The lawsuit’s biggest obstacle is the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which has largely shielded gun manufacturers from being held liable for the harms wrought by their products for nearly two decades. Mexico’s lawyers are attempting to sidestep PLCAA by arguing that the law only applies to cases of gun violence within the U.S. that violate American laws. In a new piece, Champe Barton lays out the novel legal strategy in full and speaks to gun law experts, who are divided about its chances in court.

Covid concerns prompt major gunmakers to stay away from upcoming NRA convention. The gun group’s annual confab, which was cancelled last year due to the pandemic, is being hosted the weekend of September 3 in Houston. But leading gun industry players are now signaling they won’t attend or are quietly pushing the NRA to cancel the event altogether, according to internal communications obtained by The Daily Beast. Benelli USA, Browning, Smith & Wesson, Springfield Armory, Sig Sauer, and Sturm, Ruger & Company are among the companies who have reportedly said they won’t come or are cancelling travel plans for the event. The NRA didn’t provide comment to The Daily Beast about the gunmakers’ reported plans, but has openly said it expects thousands of fewer attendees to this year’s convention.

Violent Portland Proud Boy rally ends in gunfire. A rally organized by the Proud Boys and their allies ended in a gunfight in downtown Portland as antifacist counter-protesters allegedly returned fire at a man who’d shot at them. No one was injured in the shooting. One man was detained by police. The shooting marked the end of a day of violence between far-right and left-wing demonstrators involving bear mace, fireworks, and paintball guns. Ahead of the planned "Summer of Love" rally, the Portland police said they would monitor the situation and make arrests, but also noted that people should “not expect to see police officers standing in the middle of the crowd trying to keep people apart.”

U.S. Capitol police officer who fatally shot rioter is exonerated for use of force. An agency memo obtained by NBC News shows that the unnamed officer who shot Ashli Babbitt as she attempted to enter the building had been cleared by an internal investigation. The news follows the Justice Department’s April decision to not bring any charges against the officer. Related: The D.C. police activated the full department and cancelled vacation for officers ahead of a right-wing “Justice for J6” protest planned for September 18 to honor arrested Capitol rioters.

State AGs send dueling letters as the potential for ghost gun regulation nears. In May, the Justice Department released proposed regulations for unserialized, DIY guns that include reclassifying what counts as a firearm under U.S. law and would require retailers of ghost gun kits to run background checks on prospective buyers. In one letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland last week, 22 Democratic state AGs praised the effort and detailed further recommendations for confronting ghost guns. Separately, a coalition of 20 GOP state AGs lambasted the proposed rules as “unconstitutional” for “allowing ATF to decide for itself which firearms it will regulate, unconstrained by Congress’s guidance.” The competing letters came as the public comment period for the proposed ATF ghost gun rule closed on August 19.

44 percent — the share of firearms recovered in homicides cases in San Francisco that were ghost guns last year, according to the city’s police chief. That’s up from 6 percent in 2019. [The New York Times]
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