Mexico sues US gun manufacturers over arms trafficking toll

The Mexican government sued United States gun manufacturers and distributors Wednesday in U.S. federal court, arguing that their negligent and illegal commercial practices have unleashed tremendous bloodshed in Mexico.

The unusual lawsuit was filed in U.S. federal court in Boston. Among those being sued are some of the biggest names in guns, including: Smith & Wesson Brands, Inc.; Barret Firearms Manufacturing, Inc.; Beretta U.S.A. Corp.; Colt’s Manufacturing Company LLC, and Glock Inc. Another defendant is Interstate Arms, a Boston-area wholesaler that sells guns from all but one of the named manufacturers to dealers around the U.S.

The Mexican government argues that the companies know that their practices contribute to the trafficking of guns to Mexico and facilitate it. Mexico wants compensation for the havoc the guns have wrought in its country.

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 said.

The government estimates that 70% of the weapons trafficked to Mexico come from the U.S., according to the Foreign Affairs Ministry. And that in 2019 alone, at least 17,000 homicides were linked to trafficked weapons.

Alejandro Celorio, legal advisor for the ministry, told reporters Wednesday that the damage caused by the trafficked guns would be equal to 1.7% to 2% of Mexico’s gross domestic product. The government will seek at least $10 billion in compensation, he said. Mexico’s GDP last year was more than $1.2 trillion.

“We don’t do it to pressure the United States,” Celorio said. “We do it so there aren’t deaths in Mexico.”

Ebrard said the lawsuit was another piece of the government’s efforts against guns. “The priority is that we reduce homicides,” he said. “We aren’t looking to change American laws.”

The sale of firearms is severely restricted in Mexico and controlled by the Defense Department. But thousands of guns are smuggled into Mexico by the country’s powerful drug cartels.

There were more than 36,000 murders in Mexico last year, and the toll has remained stubbornly high despite President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s pledge to pacify the country. Mexico’s nationwide murder rate in 2020 remained unchanged at 29 per 100,000 inhabitants. By comparison, the U.S. homicide rate in 2019 was 5.8 per 100,000.

In August 2019, a gunmen killed 23 people in a Walmart, including some Mexican citizens. At that time, Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said the government would explore its legal options. The government said Wednesday that recent rulings in U.S. courts contributed to its decision to file the lawsuit.

It cited a decision in California allowing a lawsuit against Smith & Wesson to move forward, a lawsuit filed last week against Century Arms related to a 2019 shooting in Gilroy, California, and the $33 million settlement reached by Remington with some of the families whose children were killed in the Newtown, Connecticut, mass school shooting.

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