Speed Reads

Turning the trafficking tables

Mexico files 'long shot' lawsuit accusing 10 U.S. gun manufacturers of trafficking complicity

Mexico on Wednesday sued 10 U.S. gun manufacturers and distributors in U.S. federal court in Boston, arguing that the gunmakers knowingly and actively facilitate the southward flow of firearms to Mexican drug cartels. "These weapons are intimately linked to the violence that Mexico is living through today," Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said at a news conference. The Mexican government is seeking at least $10 billion in damages for the bloodshed U.S. guns have contributed to in Mexico.

The first-of-its-kind foreign lawsuit names gunmakers Smith & Wesson, Beretta USA, Beretta Holding, Colt, Glock, Barrett Firearms, Sturm, Ruger, Century International Arms, and the gun wholesaler Interstate Arms, or Witmer Public Safety Group. About 70 percent of the firearms Mexico submitted for tracking between 2014 and 2018 originated in the U.S., the Justice Department says. Mexico claims U.S. gunmakers intentionally market their guns in ways that appeal to drug traffickers and refuse to restrict sales to businesses they know are selling firearms to Mexican cartels. 

The gunmakers did not comment on the suit, but their U.S. trade group, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, called Mexico's allegations "baseless," saying "the Mexican government is responsible for the rampant crime and corruption within their own borders." Legal scholars agreed that Mexico has a steep legal hill to climb, given the broad legal immunity Congress gave to gunmakers in 2005

"It's a bit of a long shot," Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond, told The New York Times. "It may just be a way to get the attention of the federal government and Biden and the White House so they can sit down and make a deal." Adam Winkler, a UCLA law professor and expert on gun policy, agreed that Mexico's lawsuit is a "long shot," but he also called it "bold and innovative" and pointed to a proposed $33 million settlement Remington has offered to Sandy Hook parents as evidence of recent "cracks in the immunity armor provided by federal law."

Mexico did not seek the U.S. government's advice before filing its lawsuit, but the White House noted that President Biden has urged Congress to repeal the 2005 liability shield. Ebrard said Mexico's priority is to "reduce homicides," which hit 36,000 last year — or 29 murders per 100,000 inhabitants, versus the U.S. rate of 5.8 per 100,000. "We aren't looking to change American laws," he added.