Weapons are on display after a gun buyback event hosted by the New York City Police Department (NYPD), in the Queens borough of New York City, on June 12, 2021.
Eduardo Munoz | Reuters
The Mexican government on Wednesday filed a civil lawsuit against several American arms manufacturers for allegedly contributing to the illegal arms trade to Mexico.
The lawsuit was filed in US federal court in Boston. Those charged include Smith & Wesson, Barrett Firearms, Beretta U.S.A., Colt’s Manufacturing Company and other big names in the arms industry.
The companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The arms manufacturers are accused of negligent trade practices that facilitate the smuggling of weapons into Mexico and cause “massive damage” to the country. The lawsuit alleges that they knowingly supply the criminal arms market in Mexico in particular, noting that their military-style weapons often end up in the hands of drug cartels and other criminals who harm civilians and government personnel.
Mexico has reported historically high homicide rates in recent years, which the lawsuit alleges are caused in part by weapons smuggled from the US in violation of Mexico’s domestic gun laws.
“The consequences in Mexico have been dire. In addition to the exponential growth in homicides, defendants’ behavior has had an overall destabilizing effect on Mexican society,” the lawsuit alleges.
The Mexican government is demanding compensation for the financial toll and bloodshed caused by the defendants’ wrongful behavior. Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said at a news conference on Wednesday that the government is seeking an estimated $10 billion, Reuters reported on Wednesday.
“For decades, the government and its citizens have been victims of a deadly stream of military and other highly lethal weapons from the US entering criminal hands in Mexico across the border,” the lawsuit said.
“This flooding is not a natural phenomenon or an inevitable consequence of the arms trade or of the US gun laws. It is the foreseeable result of the defendants’ deliberate actions and business practices.”
The compensation would cover the costs of deaths and injuries to Mexican police and military personnel, social services for gun crime victims and their families, and strengthening law enforcement to prevent arms trafficking, among other costs.
Domestic laws in Mexico severely restrict the sale of firearms in the country, and the Mexican government issues fewer than 50 firearms licenses annually, according to the lawsuit.
But according to the lawsuit, the defendants are undermining these laws. It is estimated that half a million weapons are smuggled from the US to Mexico each year, and the suspects are said to have produced more than 68% of them, the lawsuit said.
This means they sell more than 340,000 weapons each year that flow across the US-Mexico border, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit says the defendants do not regulate their weapons distribution practices. They sell guns to any distributor or dealer with a U.S. license, regardless of whether they have a record of illegal arms sales to Mexico, the lawsuit alleges.
The suspects are also accused of marketing their deadly weapons in ways that attract transnational criminal organizations, such as Mexican drug cartels. For example, Barrett Firearms markets one of its rifles as a “weapon of war,” but sells it to the general public without restrictions, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit alleges that the defendants’ facilitation of arms trafficking has allowed criminals to attack the Mexican military and police, and stage extortion and kidnapping crimes.
Ebrard on Wednesday called on US arms manufacturers to end their business practices that contribute to violence and deaths in his country, Reuters reported. He believes that the US government, which is not named in the lawsuit, is willing to work with Mexico to curb the illegal arms trade.