But Judge William J. Kayatta Jr., an Obama appointee who serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, writing for a unanimous majority, revived the lawsuit. The ruling said that plaintiffs had made a “plausible” argument that their case was “statutorily exempt” from the immunity shield.
In its appeal, lawyers for Mexico, assisted by U.S. gun control groups, claimed that the companies “aided and abetted the knowingly unlawful downstream trafficking” of their guns into Mexico.
Gun violence is rampant in Mexico despite its near-blanket prohibition of firearms ownership.
About 70 to 90 percent of guns trafficked in Mexico originated in the United States, according to Everytown Law, the legal arm of the gun control group founded by the former mayor of New York Michael R. Bloomberg.
Gun control advocates hailed the decision on Monday by a three-judge panel, describing it as a milestone in holding the gun industry accountable.
“Not only did the court recognize the right of another country to sue U.S. gun companies; it also pierced the unfair legal shield that gun companies have been hiding behind,” said Jonathan Lowy, a lawyer based in Maryland who serves as Mexico’s co-counsel on the case and is a founder of Global Action on Gun Violence.