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Mexico is suing U.S. gun manufacturers for causing 17,000 killings a year

The Mexican government alleges in the lawsuit that the defendants knew their business practices had encouraged illegal arms trafficking into Mexico.

Mexico is suing U.S. gun manufacturers for causing 17,000 killings a year
Cover Image Source: Signs sit near the White House following the March for Our Lives rally March 24, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

The Mexican government sued several gun makers and distributors in a U.S. federal court on Wednesday, arguing that their negligent and illegal commercial practices are "actively facilitating the unlawful trafficking of their guns to drug cartels and other criminals in Mexico." According to Reuters, the lawsuit names some of the biggest names in the industry, including Smith & Wesson Brands, Inc.; Barrett Firearms Manufacturing, Inc.; Beretta U.S.A. Corp.; Colt’s Manufacturing Company LLC, Glock Inc, and Interstate Arms, a Boston-area wholesaler that sells guns from all but one of the named manufacturers. The Mexican government alleges in the lawsuit that the defendants knew their business practices had encouraged illegal arms trafficking into Mexico.



 

Citing weapons that entered Mexico and were used in notorious shootings, the lawsuit points out that Colt's .38-caliber "Emiliano Zapata 1911" pistol is engraved with the image of the Mexican revolutionary, and has become a status symbol coveted by drug cartels. "What's the objective? That the companies in question compensate Mexico's government for the damage caused by their negligent practices," Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said at a news conference about the lawsuit. Filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, the lawsuit is one of the boldest steps ever taken by the Mexican government against the U.S. arms industry.



 

The Mexican government "brings this action to put an end to the massive damage that the Defendants cause by actively facilitating the unlawful trafficking of their guns to drug cartels and other criminals in Mexico," the lawsuit states, reports AP. While Mexico only has one gun store in the country and issues fewer than 50 permits per year, according to VICE, the lawsuit alleges that an estimated half a million guns flow into the country from the US every year. In 2019 alone, at least 17,000 Mexican citizens were reportedly murdered with guns manufactured in the U.S.



 

"Defendants are not accidental or unintentional players in this tragedy; they are deliberate and willing participants, repeating profits from the criminal market they knowingly supply — heedless of the shattering consequences to the Government and its citizens," the lawsuit states. "We want the companies that are being sued to compensate the government of Mexico for the damages caused by its negligent practices," Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said in a press conference. He added that the suit also seeks to force the companies to "develop and implement rational and verifiable standards to monitor and discipline distributors."



 

While Ebrard said that the amount of damages Mexico is seeking would be determined during the course of the lawsuit, Alejandro Celorio — legal adviser to the foreign ministry — estimated that it could be in the range of $10 billion. "The lawsuit is probably a long shot in itself but they could get a sympathetic judge and jurors, and it could have an impact," Ioan Grillo, author of Blood Gun Money: How America Arms Gangs and Cartels, observed. "It puts this issue of firearms trafficking from the U.S. to Mexico in the news and helps create that pressure for the US to take action." 



 

Meanwhile, the National Shooting Sports Foundation — the U.S. firearm industry's trade association — rejected Mexico's allegations of negligence in a statement. "These allegations are baseless. The Mexican government is responsible for the rampant crime and corruption within their own borders," said Lawrence G. Keane, the group's senior vice president and general counsel, adding that the Mexican government is responsible for enforcing its laws. 



 

"Will the lawsuit succeed? It’s a brilliant idea. If nothing else, it will shine a light on how dirty this industry is and how messed up and ineffective U.S. policy is," said Bonnie Klapper, a former federal prosecutor and expert on drug enforcement and legislation. "We treat Mexico like a dumping ground for our guns and then condemn Mexico for the drug-related gun violence that spreads into the U.S."

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