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Mexico sues US gun manufacturers for arms trafficking, fueling violence

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard holds documents during a news conference to announce that Mexico has sued several gun makers in a US federal court, on August 4, 2021. (Photo by Reuters)

The Mexican government has filed a civil lawsuit against several American gun manufacturers with a US federal court, accusing them of illegal commercial practices and arms trafficking that have led to bloodshed in Mexico.

The lawsuit, a first one filed by a national government against gun makers in the United States, said the companies’ military-grade weapons often ended up in the hands of drug cartels and other criminals who harmed civilians and government personnel in Mexico.

Among the companies named in the suit are some of the biggest names in the gun manufacturing industry, including Colt’s Manufacturing Company LLC, Barrett Firearms Manufacturing, Beretta USA, Smith & Wesson Brands, and Glock.

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.

Mexico has strict laws regulating the sale and private use of guns, and the Mexican government issues fewer than 50 gun permits each year, according to the lawsuit. But thousands of guns are smuggled into Mexico by the country’s powerful drug cartels.

The lawsuit said over half a million guns are trafficked from the US border into Mexico each year, of which more than 68%, or over 340,000, are made by the firms in question. In 2019 alone, at least 17,000 homicides in Mexico were linked to trafficked weapons.

“This flood is not a natural phenomenon or an inevitable consequence of the gun business or of US gun laws. It is the foreseeable result of the defendants’ deliberate actions and business practices,” it said.

The Mexican government argues that the companies know that their practices contribute to the trafficking of guns to Mexico. Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said at a press conference on Wednesday that the government was seeking an estimated $10 billion in compensation for the financial toll and bloodshed caused by the defendants’ alleged unlawful conduct.

Alejandro Celorio, a legal adviser for the ministry, told reporters that the damage caused by the violence of trafficked guns in Mexico was estimated at around 1.7 percent to 2 percent of Mexico’s gross domestic product. Mexico’s GDP last year was more than $1.2 trillion.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation Inc. (NSSF) said it rejected Mexico's claims that US manufacturers were negligent in their business practices.

“The Mexican government is responsible for the rampant crime and corruption within their own borders,” Lawrence G. Keane, the NSSF’s senior vice president, said in a statement. He said the Mexican cartels used guns taken illegally to Mexico or stolen from the Mexican military and law enforcement.

Ebrard, viewed as a leading contender for Mexico’s 2024 presidential election, has repeatedly raised concern in recent years about the US gun trafficking and lax gun controls. He said the lawsuit was not aimed at the US government and that he believed the US President Joe Biden administration was willing to work with Mexico to curb arms trafficking.

The suit was filed the day after Ebrard attended a ceremony commemorating the second anniversary of the mass shooting of 22 people at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, where the shooter was accused of deliberately targeting Mexicans.


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