Mexico Sues US Gun Manufacturers and DistributorsBy Paloma Duran | Tue, 08/10/2021 - 09:15
Mexico has filed a lawsuit in a US court against gun manufacturers and distributors because their lack of regulation has increased organized crime and violence in the country. The Mexican government announced that its legal action seeks to promote responsible practices and frameworks that prevent illicit arms trafficking to the country and their use for criminal activities.
On Aug. 4, the Mexican government announced it was suing six manufacturers: Smith & Wesson, Barrett Firearms, Colt’s Manufacturing Company, Glock and Ruger for promoting access to high-powered weapons without having strict regulations. According to the lawsuit, more than 500,000 firearms are trafficked annually from the US to Mexico, of which more than 68 percent come from these six companies.
The government explained that the lack of regulation contributes to illegal arms trafficking in Mexico and it is linked to massacres and violent incidents. In 2019, weapons trafficked into Mexico were responsible for 17,000 murders. Furthermore, the estimated damage to the economy caused by violence is around 1.7 percent of the country’s GDP.
Mexican authorities stressed that the government respects the rights and freedoms of US citizens and therefore does not question the right to own or sell weapons, but rather the lack of practices that have caused harm to Mexicans. "It has caused an increase in violence and has armed cartels and criminal groups that not only traffic drugs but also commit kidnappings, murders, homicides and many other crimes."
As a consequence, Mexican authorities are seeking US$10 billion in damages and that US arms manufacturers "develop and implement reasonable and verifiable standards to monitor and, where appropriate, discipline their distributors." In addition, companies must incorporate safety elements in their weapons to prevent their unauthorized use; finance studies, programs and campaigns to combat illicit trafficking; and to cease negligent practices that affect Mexico.
The lawsuit´s main argument is that these companies know that their weapons are being trafficked and used in illicit activities and, despite this, the companies promote their sale and allow buyers to acquire various weapons, without verifying their background. The National Shooting Sports Foundation Inc (NSSF) has rejected Mexico's claims, saying that "the government is responsible for rampant crime and corruption within its own borders."
The Mexican government will be represented by attorney Steve Shadowen, an expert in tort, defective product liability and industry reform cases, and by Jonathan Lowy, Chief Counsel for Brady, a 45-year-old leading gun violence prevention organization. Shadowen said this is a strategic lawsuit with many areas of opportunity to hold arms manufacturers and distributors accountable, "as they have real-time information and data on who buys weapons and where."
Adam Winkler, a law professor and gun policy expert at the University of California, said the lawsuit is an effort to remove immunity laws that protect gun companies from victim litigation. However, Mexico is unlikely to win. “Even if this lawsuit moves forward, it will be extremely difficult for Mexico to win because it will be hard to show that this distribution process or their distribution practices are a manifestation of negligence on the part of the gun makers.”
John Lindsay-Poland, Coordinator at Stop US Arms to Mexico, said that even if the lawsuit does not succeed, it will expose the calculations gun companies make regarding their imports to Mexico.