Mexico sues US gun manufacturers over arms trafficking toll

MEXICO CITY (AP) - The Mexican government sued U.S. arms manufacturers and dealers in a U.S. federal court on Wednesday, arguing that their negligent and illegal business practices have sparked enormous bloodshed in Mexico.
The unusual lawsuit was filed in US federal court in Boston. The defendants include some of the biggest names in guns including: Smith & Wesson Brands, Inc .; Barrett Firearms Manufacturing, Inc .; Beretta U.S.A. Corp .; Colt’s Manufacturing Company LLC and Glock Inc. Another defendant is Interstate Arms, a wholesaler in the Boston area that sells weapons from all but one of these manufacturers to dealers in the United States.
Manufacturers did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The Mexican government argues that the companies know that their practices contribute to and facilitate the arms trade in Mexico. Mexico is demanding compensation for the devastation the weapons have wreaked in its country.
The Mexican government "is ending this move to put an end to the massive damage the defendants are causing by actively facilitating the illicit trafficking of their weapons to drug cartels and other criminals in Mexico," the lawsuit said.
The government estimates that 70 percent of weapons smuggled into Mexico come from the United States, the State Department said. In 2019 alone, at least 17,000 homicides were linked to arms trafficking.
Alejandro Celorio, the ministry's legal adviser, told reporters on Wednesday that the damage caused by the illicit arms trade would amount to 1.7% to 2% of Mexico's gross domestic product. The government will demand at least $ 10 billion in compensation, he said. Mexico's GDP was more than $ 1.2 trillion last year.
"We're not doing this to put pressure on the US," said Celorio. "We are doing it so that there are no deaths in Mexico."
Ebrard said the lawsuit was another part of the government's efforts against guns. "The priority is that we reduce homicides," he said. "We don't want to change American laws."
Mexico did not seek advice from the US government on this matter, but advised the US embassy prior to filing the lawsuit.
Steve Shadowen, Mexico's chief attorney, said that about 30 U.S. cities filed similar lawsuits against gun manufacturers in the early 2000s on the grounds that they were responsible for increased police, hospital stays and other costs related to gun violence.
When some cities started to win, gun manufacturers went to Congress and were given an immunity bill for the manufacturers. Shadowen said he believes immunity does not apply if the violation occurs outside of the United States.
"The merits of the case are strong to us and then we have to bypass this immunity law that we believe we will win," he said. “This law just doesn't apply. It only applies if you are in the United States. "
He believes this is the first time a foreign government has sued the arms manufacturers.
The sale of firearms in Mexico is severely restricted and controlled by the Department of Defense. But thousands of weapons are being smuggled into Mexico by the country's powerful drug cartels.
There were more than 36,000 murders in Mexico last year and the number of murders has remained stubbornly high despite President Andrés Manuel López Obrador's pledge to pacify the country. Mexico's nationwide homicide rate remained unchanged at 29 per 100,000 people in 2020. By comparison, the US homicide rate in 2019 was 5.8 per 100,000.
In August 2019, a gunman killed 23 people, including some Mexican citizens, in a Walmart in El Paso. At the time, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said the government would examine its legal options. The government said Wednesday that recent judgments from US courts contributed to its decision to file the lawsuit.
It cited a decision in California that allowed a lawsuit against Smith & Wesson to continue, a lawsuit filed last week against Century Arms in connection with a 2019 shooting in Gilroy, California, and the $ 33 million settlement US dollars Remington raised with some of the families whose children were killed in mass school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut.

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