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Friday, August 13, 2021

Why Mexico Is Right to Sue U.S. Gun Companies

"Sol Prendido" for Borderland Beat

The lawsuit over drug cartel violence could be part of a bigger change on guns.

Assault rifles are displayed for sale at Blue Ridge Arsenal in Chantilly, Virginia, on Oct. 6, 2017. 

Researching a book on gun trafficking, I asked an export broker in the legal part of the arms trade if he was concerned that his assault rifles could end up in the hands of murderers. 

He said he wasn’t worried about getting in trouble; his sales, he assured me, followed national and international laws. I asked again: Even if he wasn’t nervous about legal consequences, was he bothered ethically if his weapons ended up on the wrong trigger fingers? He was silent for a moment before answering with a confident “no.”

I’ll give him credit for his honesty. But this same attitude, perhaps expressed with less vehemence, can be found among many in the weapons industry. 

The argument is that if producers, importers, and sellers obey the law, then it is not their responsibility what is ultimately done with their pistols, rifles, or bullets.

This concept, however, has just been challenged by an unprecedented lawsuit filed by the Mexican government on Aug. 4 in a U.S. federal court in Massachusetts. 

The complaint names key companies in the U.S. firearms industry and argues they are complicit in a vast iron river of guns flowing over the southern U.S. border and wielded by Mexican cartel gunmen to commit mass murder there. 

The companies, the lawsuit argues, deliberately marketed and distributed their products to meet the gangsters’ preferences for certain types and specifications of guns.

The Mexican government estimates more than two million firearms have been trafficked over the Rio Grande in the last decade. In that time, there have been more than 250,000 murders in Mexico, with more than two-thirds of them involving guns.

The violence also includes firefights between hundreds of cartel thugs and soldiers, resulting in mass graves with hundreds of corpses. Thousands have fled the bloodshed to seek asylum in the United States.

The lawsuit names defendants including Barrett Firearms Manufacturing, whose .50-caliber rifles are used by cartel gunmen against Mexican security forces, and Century Arms, a U.S. importer of Kalashnikovs, which have been traced to Mexican crime scenes.

(Full disclosure: My work on gun trafficking is cited in the lawsuit.) “For decades, the [Mexican] government and its citizens have been victimized by a deadly flood of military-style and other particularly lethal guns,” it says in the suit. “This flood is not a natural phenomenon.”

The lawsuit shines a much-needed spotlight on gun trafficking and legal weapons sales from the United States to Mexico.

The lawsuit demands the companies take action to stop the trafficking, including to “monitor and discipline their distribution systems” and pay compensation to Mexico. 

While the amount is not specified in the suit, an official said that the cost to Mexico, including for added security, funerals, and wider economic damage, could be $10 billion. “The cost of a human life is invaluable,” said Alejandro Celorio Alcántara, a legal advisor at the Mexican Foreign Ministry.

The U.S. National Shooting Sport Foundation quickly called the suit “baseless,” and said it was a threat to rights enshrined in the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1791. 

“The Mexican government is responsible for the rampant crime and corruption within their own borders,” said Lawrence Keane, the organization’s senior vice president and general counsel. The 2005 U.S. Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act also shields gun companies from being held liable for crimes committed with their products.

The lawsuit is certainly a difficult case to pursue. But it is a solid strategy by the Mexican government that could help move the dial on this contentious issue.

It coincides with various suits filed in the United States against gun companies. In another case, families of the children murdered in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut sued the maker of the AR-15-style rifle used in the attack. In July, lawyers for the now bankrupt Remington Arms Company offered $33 million to settle the suit.

This shows that such legal actions can succeed. They could also have a cumulative effect on practices in the gun industry and help stop firearms reaching the wrong hands. 

Legal actions have a history of forcing other U.S. industries to change their practices, from the 1998 agreement with tobacco companies to the ongoing cases against pharmaceutical companies for their role in the opioid crisis.

Latin American criminal gangs have embraced social media and messaging platforms to spread narco culture and sell drugs.

Furthermore, the lawsuit shines a much-needed spotlight on gun trafficking and legal weapons sales from the United States to Mexico, and how it fuels fighting that often resembles armed conflict. 

Since it was filed, it has already generated a large amount of media coverage, and this could continue as the case makes its way through court. This could also help put pressure on the White House and the Congress to move on the issue.

U.S. President Joe Biden has promised action on gun violence amid a worrying rise in homicides committed with firearms in the United States. Congress could pass a law requiring universal background checks for gun purchases, which would close a loophole often used by cross-border gun runners. 

The U.S. government could crack down on straw buyers—people with clean records who are paid to buy firearms for criminals. Such actions could reduce the trafficking of guns into U.S. cities as well as over the southern border.

Other actions could include extended background checks on buying .50-caliber rifles or on buying larger quantities of Kalashnikovs or AR-15s. If the gun companies say they are against trafficking, they should support such measures.

The Mexican government is not challenging Americans’ right to bear arms but only how guns can go to criminals who are destabilizing a country.

Obviously, Mexico also needs to urgently battle the corruption and poverty that fuels the violence. 

On both sides of the border, the issue of the drug trade itself and how it generates billions of dollars for criminals needs to be addressed. But this doesn’t take away the responsibility of the United States and its firearms industry to take basic measures to stop such large-scale gun running.

I also talked to a U.S. gun seller who was genuinely concerned that the firearms he sells may be going to cartels. He said he vigilantly contacted the authorities when he noticed something suspicious—and was frustrated by the lack of response. Hopefully, such voices in the industry can prevail.

The Mexican government is not challenging Americans’ right to bear arms but only how guns can go to criminals who are destabilizing a country. If no action is taken, it is terrifying to think of millions of more guns flowing south over the next decade, hundreds of thousands of additional victims, and their weeping families.

Foreign Policy

18 comments:

  1. Maybe if Mexico got it's shit together and enforced the rule of law then it wouldn't be the Kafka-esque state of fuckery that it is. This from a soul brother who is down with La Raza.

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  2. If this suit goes to a civil court and the group suing on behalf of Mexico wins...the implications beyond the initial payout could open up companies to pay out each time someone is killed in Mexico with one of the guns they produced in the US, especially for police/military/politicians as they are working for the government. And potentially could be a precedent in the US for families to file wrongful death suits against manufacturers as well for gun violence, as there are currently suits filed. My guess is they will try to settle this to avoid that possibility.

    The gun makers are marketing/producing to the trends in the industry which have gone greatly towards the military/special ops style of guns in the last decade or so. The cartels have followed similar trends from the years of cowboy/rancher style guns to paramilitary gunmen. It seems to be more of a how they are sold and what restrictions to prevent it versus what manufacturers are producing and how they are marketing.

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  3. The USA should sue Mexico for trafficking fentanyl by the ton into this country. Just because Mexico is so weak as to not allow their citizens to protect themselves with guns doesn’t mean USA can’t. And besides I and countless others as an American tax payers already pay FUCKING BILLIONS in aid every year. Not to mention the FUCKING BILLIONS in untaxed remittances sent back to Mexico. Mexicans may not be able to be responsible with guns but the overwhelming legal gun owners in USA can and do. And the thousands of murders in USA every year are committed by the Trump supporting white racist legal gun owner…Don’t u know!!! NOT!!! They are overwhelmingly committed
    by 3.5%(17yearold-40year old male) of the 13% black population. Only criminals have guns in ur country! Not the case here THANK GOD!! Sol ur a gun grabbing victimized acting bitch! Take ur own gun away cause mine will be pried from my cold dead hand!

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  4. The USA should sue Mexico for trafficking fentanyl by the ton into this country. Just because Mexico is so weak as to not allow their citizens to protect themselves with guns doesn’t mean USA can’t. And besides I and countless others as an American tax payers already pay FUCKING BILLIONS in aid every year. Not to mention the FUCKING BILLIONS in untaxed remittances sent back to Mexico. Mexicans may not be able to be responsible with guns but the overwhelming legal gun owners in USA can and do. And the thousands of murders in USA every year are committed by the Trump supporting white racist legal gun owner…Don’t u know!!! NOT!!! They are overwhelmingly committed
    by 3.5%(17yearold-40year old male) of the 13% black population. Only criminals have guns in ur country! Not the case here THANK GOD!! Sol ur a gun grabbing victimized acting bitch! Take ur own gun away cause mine will be pried from my cold dead hand!

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  5. What a joke. Mexico is officially a clown government. On top of it being a narco government. Marcelo should worry about the disaster work he left in Mexico City in which he was responsible for the deaths of the train victims. Mexico should worry on corruption and giving Mexicans rights to bear arms and defend themselves. Mexico should has a billion problems. But meddling in American rights is not one of them. Furthermore, the numbers prove that the weapons funneled from the us are not the ones committing the crimes in Mexican. Except for the ones that Obama allowed to be funneled into Mexico to kill Mexicans and Americans. Eric holder is somehow still not in jail rotting for his crimes. I lost all respect for AMLO and I hope him and Marcelo go to jail or die in slow and painful death like the rest of the cartel rats

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    Replies
    1. Well hello Edgar Alvarado!
      Your right Mexico is a clown government.

      Delete
  6. I love how the article focuses on the hypotheticals breaking it all down and gives the real problem a whisper only mentioning it because it is the core of all of Mexicos troubles and the quote goes
    "Obviously, Mexico also needs to urgently battle the corruption and poverty that fuels the violence."
    Lol You can hypothetical all the what ifs but until Mexico addresses the real problems theres nothing anyone can do to help those people . The guns are already over there and until the corrupt government and military address their issues nothing will change . What a waste of time and money and its only going to seperate people more then whats already going on . I think we should cut off funding to Mexico and close our borders just to ensure our guns stay here and their drugs stay over there so that way Mexico is safe as kittens without the USA to blame what ever will they do ?

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    Replies
    1. And yet another excellent example of why we need to build the wall

      Delete
  7. What happened to the other commenters?

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  8. Unbelievable that ALMO blames the gun industry, and when Cartels kill with knifes made in the USA will he also go for the knife industry. The article is one sided. Let's say he were to win, what would he do with the millions while in office....yes you guessed it going into curupt officials pockets.
    What about him and his government letting Cartels run rampant, and not allowing the Army or Marina to get involved.

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  9. The Mexican government stripped their citizens of the right to self defense years ago. Now, working with the same slippery USA politicians that encouraged the mob to loot and burn last summer, they would like to strip our rights away. So that Mexico will be "safer." ok right. Bottom line, a free people are an armed people, don't give up your guns.

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  10. This is bs.i guess we can start suing Budweiser or Seagrams or Coors over drunk driving accidents?how bout McDonald's for marketing food that's unhealthy and kills people?what about the large numbers of guns that don't come from America? Can we sue mexico over all the fentanyl deaths? They are allowing it to be trafficked into the u.s..this lawsuit is ridiculous.show me where they are dealing with cartels directly n I'm on bored

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  11. This is the stupidest thing ever. Are they going to sue russia or china for the ak47.

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  12. 2:17 I agree with you. Obradors cabinet has been doing things to rattle the US, but on the long run they end up looking like clowns.
    Mexico wants to have ties with North Korea.
    Mexico accepted Avo Morales from Bolivia.eluvets
    Mexico delivers aid to Cuba
    Mexico will accept Wkuleaks Assage
    Mexico will accept Russian made covid19 vaccine.

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  13. 12:22 the US gladly accepted sending most all US jobs and whole industries to Communist China, now China is gladly fisting the US, but NO Mexican is involved in that.

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  14. Sir de Gorege
    There is cheap labor abound in China, Mexico, India, companies save and make a profit when things are manufactured overseas. A shirt made in Mexico the company would pay $3.00 wholesale and Mark up the shirt to $18.00

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  15. Mr. Sol Prendido, please explain what you mean by the statement "legal weapons sales from the United States to Mexico" AND then justify how "legal transactions" warrant awards to the Mexican government (via penalties to gun manufacturers) when you yourself state no laws were broken by said manufacturers?

    ReplyDelete

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