Amicus Briefs

Estados Unidos Mexicanos v. Smith & Wesson Brands, Inc., et al.

Status Amicus Brief

Practice area Civil Rights & Employment

Court U.S. Court of Appeals, First Circuit

Case number 22-1823


On March 21, 2023, Cohen Milstein filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of senior law enforcement officers in support of the United States of Mexico, plaintiff-appellant, before the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. Amici argue for the reversal of the district court’s grant of defendants’ motion to dismiss in Estados Unidos Mexicanos v. Smith & Wesson Brands, Inc., et al., Case No. 1:21-CV-11269-FDS, United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts.

On January 26, 2024, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit reversed the lower court’s dismissal of a lawsuit brought by the government of Mexico against several U.S. gun manufacturers and a gun distributor. 

Case Background

In August 2021, Mexico brought a landmark case in the District of Massachusetts against U.S.-based gun manufacturers and a gun wholesaler, alleging that the Mexican government and its people have been “victimized by a deadly flood of military-style and other particularly lethal guns that flows from the U.S. across the border, into criminal hands in Mexico” and that this harm was the “foreseeable result” of defendants’ actions and business practices. The complaint also alleged that defendants sell to dealers in the United States that illegally supply weapons to Mexico, and even design weapons to appeal to violent cartels in Mexico. Mexico contended that this conduct violated state tort law and consumer protection statutes. In September 2022, the court dismissed the complaint. Mexico appealed that decision to the First Circuit Court of Appeals.

Background of Amici & Their Argument

Amici are life-long law enforcement officers and national experts on transnational crime. They include the first Senate-confirmed commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection; the current chief and former assistant chief of the Seattle Police Department; former chiefs of the U.S. Capitol Police, Aurora Police Department, and Miami Beach Police Department; a former president of the National Police Foundation; and a current co-director of the Policy, Security Technology, and Private Security Research and Policy Institute.

In their many years of service to the United States, Amici were responsible for understanding, identifying, and preventing crime perpetrated by transnational criminal organizations. As a result, they have an interest in this proceeding because Defendants-Appellees’ sales and manufacturing practices arm the transnational criminal organizations engaged in a deadly war over lucrative drug trafficking routes.

Mexican cartels use their growing arsenal to terrorize the Mexican people, intimidate and murder Mexican law enforcement, and dominate drug manufacturing and trafficking into the United States. Indeed, Mexican cartels have taken over as the primary producer of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is now the leading cause of overdose deaths in the U.S.

The ties between American guns, Mexican cartel power, and the fentanyl epidemic are clear and well-documented. Numerous U.S. government agencies have identified American guns as a key catalyst of fentanyl trafficking by Mexican cartels. Given the unending supply of individuals who are either willing or forced to engage in trafficking, attempting to halt the supply of weapons at the border is not a solution. As a result, U.S. gun manufacturers like Defendants-Appellees are the point at which the flow of firearms into the illegal market must be stemmed. But, despite knowledge of diversion of their products, gun manufacturers have not taken steps to prevent this; instead, they maintain distribution systems that put guns in the hands of traffickers.

Their decision has devastating effects on both sides of the border. The result—whether a victim of gun violence in Mexico or another fentanyl fatality in the United States—is deadly. These ties strike at the heart of this case—a reality that the District Court did not appreciate, and one that Amici urge this Court to consider in evaluating the District Court’s decision.