Wednesday, March 22, 2023
THE Bahamas has joined a $10bn lawsuit to hold US gun manufacturers to account for the spread of firearms throughout the region, Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis said last night.
Mr Davis issued a statement in which he said the government was joining an appeal in the United States Court of Appeal in the First Circuit in support of Mexico “to hold US gun manufacturers liable for the harm caused by their products”.
Also joining in the amicus curiae brief (friend of the court) were Antigua and Barbuda, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago.
The defendants in the $10bn suit include seven major gun manufacturers and one gun wholesaler and distributor.
The case was dismissed in the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts in September last year, finding that the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act barred such lawsuits, but the Mexican government in its appeal “maintains that the arms industry should be accountable for how their products are distributed and sold,” Mr Davis noted.
He said in a statement last night: “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 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.”
The legal brief states: “Unlawful trafficking of American firearms must be curtailed at its source: the US gun industry. The gun manufacturers and distributers from a single nation must not be permitted to hold hostage the law-abiding citizens of an entire region of the world,” and notes that the governments of the participating countries “have a solemn duty to protect the lives, health, and security of their citizens.”
The brief added that the United Nations has shown that “firearms are key enablers of high homicide levels,” and notes that despite comprising less than 1% of the world’s population, the Caribbean records 23% of all homicides.
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.
It points to the increase in gun violence in The Bahamas, including unintended victims, such as children caught in the crossfire. It also points to the use of firearms by Haitian gangs in violent crimes and kidnapping, which has led many Haitian migrants to flee their country.
The legal move calls for reducing violence abroad by adopting retail practices, including committing to only work with dealers who take measures to stop guns being sold to criminals, and changing how guns are made to reduce the harm they cause.
Last year, Mr Davis argued at the United Nations that gun smuggling was having a major affect on The Bahamas. Speaking in September, he said: “We do not manufacture guns in our country, and yet they illegally find their way to The Bahamas, and within days, can be connected to some criminal activity.”
He added at the time: “We believe more manageable and effective efforts can be made at the source, to ensure that a right to bear arms does not quickly and easily translate into a right to traffic arms.”
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