Mexican officials are seen in August 2021 after filing a lawsuit against US-based gunmakers over firearms that flow from the US across the border and into criminal hands.
CNN  — 

The attorneys general of 13 states and Washington DC this week expressed support for a federal lawsuit by the Mexican government that accuses a group of American gun manufacturers of facilitating the trafficking of weapons to criminals in Mexico, fueling gun violence.

In a brief filed in federal court in Massachusetts, the Democratic attorneys general – including those in California, Massachusetts, Minnesota and New York – argued against the defendants’ motion to dismiss the case, saying that a federal law providing legal protection to gun manufacturers does not apply in this case.

“While the law may grant firearms manufacturers some protection, it is not a free pass to knowingly allow their products to land in dangerous hands,” California Attorney General Rob Bonta said in a statement Tuesday.

The group takes particular aim at the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), which protects gun manufacturers from being held liable if their products are used in a crime.

The defendants – among them brands like Smith & Wesson, Colt and Glock – pointed to the law as one argument in an effort to have the case dismissed. But the attorneys general argue the PLCAA would not, in the words of Bonta’s office, “shield the companies from accountability.”

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, in a news release issued Tuesday, asked the court to acknowledge gun manufacturers, dealers and distributors can be held accountable for how their products are marketed or sold.

“It is unacceptable,” Healey said, “for gun manufacturers and distributors to knowingly market their products in a way that facilitates the illegal trafficking of weapons into the hands of dangerous individuals.”

CNN has reached out to the companies named in the lawsuit for comment but has not heard back. A representative from Glock previously told CNN it was company policy not to comment on pending litigation, but said it would “vigorously” defend itself.

In a statement, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a firearms industry trade group, suggested the lawsuit and its targets were misplaced.

“The Mexican government should focus on bringing the Mexican drug cartels to justice in Mexican courtrooms,” said NSSF Senior Vice President and General Counsel Lawrence G. Keane, “not filing a baseless lawsuit in an American court to deflect attention from its disgraceful and corrupt failure to protect its citizens.”

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The lawsuit

Mexico filed the lawsuit last August, alleging the defendants “design, market, distribute and sell guns in ways” that arm Mexican drug cartels. The companies, the lawsuit claims, are aware of this but do nothing.