Â© Reuters. Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard holds documents at a press conference announcing that Mexico has sued several gun manufacturers in a US federal court, accusing them of negligent business practices that have generated a illegal arms trafficking that killed Mexico, Mexico City, Mexico on August 4, 2021. REUTERS / Luis CortÃ©s
By Dave Graham (NYSE 🙂 and Laura Gottesdiener
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico on Wednesday sued several gunmakers in US federal court, accusing them of reckless business practices that supplied what it called a “torrent” of illegal weapons to violent Mexican drug cartels, resulting in thousands of deaths.
The lawsuit alleges that units of Smith & Wesson, Barrett Firearms, Colt’s Manufacturing Company, Glock Inc, Sturm, Ruger & Co and others knew that their business practices had encouraged illegal arms trafficking in Mexico.
The lawsuit cites weapons that had entered Mexico and used in notorious shootings, noting that Colt’s .38 caliber “Emiliano Zapata 1911” pistol is engraved with the image of the Mexican revolutionary and is a coveted status symbol by the United States. drug cartels.
“What is the goal? That the companies in question compensate the Mexican government for the damage caused by their negligent practices,” Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard told a press conference about the lawsuit in court of the United States District of the District of Massachusetts.
The lawsuit is one of the boldest moves Mexico has ever taken to pressure the US arms industry, which Mexican leaders have accused for years of fueling gang violence.
The companies had to end their nefarious practices immediately, Ebrard said, noting that the court would decide on damages to be paid. He spoke after Mexican officials told reporters the lawsuit was asking for around $ 10 billion.
The companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation Inc (NSSF) has said it rejects Mexico’s claims that US manufacturers are negligent in their business practices.
“The Mexican government is responsible for endemic crime and corruption within its own borders,” Lawrence G. Keane, senior vice president of NSSF, said in a statement. He said the cartels were using weapons brought to Mexico illegally or stolen from the Mexican military and law enforcement.
Mexico accused the companies of helping flout its strict gun laws by marketing to the country’s underworld, and thus “actively facilitating the illegal trafficking of their weapons to drug cartels.”
Mexican officials said they spent two years analyzing legal precedents for negligence by U.S. arms manufacturers.
They pointed to cases including a recent offer by Remington Arms Co to pay families nearly $ 33 million to settle lawsuits claiming its gun marketing contributed to the Sandy Hook School massacre in 2012. in Connecticut, where 26 people have died.
Allegations of inappropriate marketing have been used in other lawsuits as an exception to US law which grants legal immunity to the firearms industry.
The Mexican lawsuit said more than 500,000 firearms are trafficked from the United States to Mexico each year, with more than 68% of them, or more than 340,000, manufactured by the companies in question.
Mexico has experienced record homicide rates in recent years.
Weapons smuggled into Mexico were responsible for at least 17,000 murders in 2019 alone, a Mexican official said. Another official estimated the economic damage caused by the violence at around 1.7% of gross domestic product (GDP).
Mexican officials said they expected the case to take a long time to resolve, but were confident of success, noting that it had been brought to the United States to ensure fairness.
A Mexican official said the lawsuit was filed in Massachusetts because some of the companies were based there.
The official also said several state judges were appointed under the administration of former President Barack Obama, who was seeking to tighten gun laws.
Mexican officials said the lawsuit did not target the U.S. government, and Ebrard said he believed the Biden administration was willing to work with Mexico to stem the arms trade.
Ebrard, considered one of the top contenders in Mexico’s 2024 presidential election, has repeatedly expressed concerns about arms trafficking in the United States and lax gun controls.
The trial announcement came a day after Ebrard traveled to El Paso, Texas to commemorate the second anniversary of the murder of 22 people at a Walmart (NYSE :), where the shooter was accused of having deliberately targeted Mexicans.