PHOENIX - Attorneys for five Arizona gun dealers, including one in Phoenix, are asking a federal judge to toss out a claim by the Mexican government that they are responsible for violence in that country.
In a new court filing, the team of lawyers say nothing in the complaint alleges any evidence that the weapons sold by the five companies - three in Tucson, one in Yuma and one in Phoenix - were used by Mexican cartels in commission of a crime. In fact, they said, the allegations never even claim that any of the dealers sell their firearms to cartels.
"Instead, Mexico's theory is that through a series of unspecified events, third-party criminals acquire, sell, and smuggle the firearms originally sold by defendants into Mexico, where they are eventually used by drug cartels to commit crimes,'' the dealers argue.
And it is these "intervening and superseding acts'' that may cause the financial harms Mexico says it suffers from fighting cartels, to the tune of $238 billion, not anything the dealers did.
The lawyers also said that even if the dealers had sold guns to Mexican citizens, there is no duty under U.S. law to protect foreign governments from harm.
The Phoenix business listed in the complaint is Ammo A-Z LLC in the 2000 block of West Deer Valley Road.
"This case implicates a clash of national values,'' they said, with the two countries having different attitudes about private gun ownership.
"In this case, Mexico seeks to reach outside its border and punish federally licensed firearms dealers in the United States, none of whom have been accused, charged or convicted of illegally selling any firearms, due to a disagreement of values concerning access to firearms by citizens,'' the attorneys for the gun dealers told Judge Cindy Jorgenson.
"This court should not allow Mexico to use the federal judiciary as a tool for circumventing the U.S. domestic legislative process.''
The lawsuit alleges that each of the five retailers has engaged in transactions that clearly indicated these were "straw sales.'' The attorney for Mexico said that includes bulk and repeat purchases.
And that, the claim charges, violates U.S. laws on both straw purchases and exports to Mexico.
What also is an indicator, according to Mexico, is the sale of assault weapons which have features that distinguish them from traditional sporting rifles, such as the ability to "lay down a high volume of fire over a wide killing zone.''
"This 'hosing down' of an area is better suited for military combat than sporting guns,'' wrote attorney Ryan O'Neal. The weapons also have less recoil, meaning quicker pulls of the trigger and are designed to accept large-capacity ammunition magazines.
What the weapons also are, which is not specifically mentioned in the lawsuit, are legal in this country.
As to suing just the five, versus the approximately 1,500 gun dealers in Arizona, Mexico claims they "are among the worst gun-trafficking offenders in Arizona and the United States.''
The dealers don't see it that way, saying they have been "singled out ... to make a political statement.''
They pointed out that the lawsuit identifies about 132 firearms that were involved in alleged straw purchases from the five dealers during a five-year period. That, they said, translates out to an average of five firearms per defendant per year.
"As such, only a small percentage of the firearms sold by the defendants are alleged to have been trafficked to Mexico, and none are identified in the complaint as being associated with a specific violent crime, or injury to a Mexican citizen,'' the attorneys for the dealers told the judge.