Three Caricom countries join Mexico in lawsuit against US gun manufacturers

NASSAU, Bahamas, CMC – The Bahamas government says it has joined a brief filed by Mexico in the United States (US) Court of Appeal in the First Circuit, in support of a US$10 billion suit to hold US gun manufacturers liable for the harm caused by their products.

The Bahamas has been joined by Antigua and Barbuda, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago, as well as the Latin American and Caribbean Network for Human Security (SEHLAC), a network of non-government organisations and affiliated professionals specialising in international humanitarian law and seeking disarmament in the Latin American and the Caribbean region.

The named defendants in the US$10 billion suit include seven major gun manufacturers and one gun wholesaler and distributor.

“The guns used in the commission of violent crimes in The Bahamas are not manufactured here, but instead, are manufactured abroad and illegally trafficked across our borders,” a statement issued by the Office of the Prime Minister in The Bahamas read in part.

“A critical element of the government’s effort to reduce violent crime in our country is cracking down on the proliferation of firearms, with particular focus on strengthening borders and entry points and on interrupting networks of illegal smugglers.

“Today, as part of this broader effort to reduce the impact of gun violence in The Bahamas, our country joined an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief in the United States Court of Appeal in the First Circuit, in support of Mexico, who is appealing their case to hold US gun manufacturers liable for the harm caused by their products,” the statement added.

Earlier this month, Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, addressing a political meeting of his ruling People’s National Movement (PNM), said that Mexico, despite having lost an initial approach to US authorities “intends to continue fighting.”

“Mexico has approached Caricom asking us as independent sovereign states with the same problem to join the fight to test it in the courts of America to hold the manufacturers and distributors of handguns and assault weapons into our country, to hold them responsible for the mayhem that they have unleashed on our societies,” Rowley said, adding “we have to join that fight”.

Rowley said America had passed laws to prevent gun owners from being sued, adding those who are making those guns knowing where they are going and what they could do, have been insulated from lawsuits.

In the court brief, the countries claim that “unlawful trafficking of American firearms must be curtailed at its source: the US gun industry. The gun manufacturers and distributors from a single nation must not be permitted to hold hostage the law-abiding citizens of an entire region of the world.”

The statement notes that the “brief argues that US gun industry practices, including the bulk sales of guns to dealers who are known to engage in practices correlated with illegal weapons smuggling, have caused significant harm to the countries in the Latin American and Caribbean region.

The brief argued that the US district court could order the defendants, the US gun manufacturers, “to reduce the violence committed abroad involving their products by adopting reasonable retail and manufacturing practices”, including refraining from supplying the small number of dealers “whose misconduct precipitates the vast majority of illegal firearms trafficking”, committing to only work with dealers who take measures to ensure the guns are not sold to criminals, and making manufacturing changes that would reduce the harm caused by the guns.

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