© Reuters. Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard holds documents during a press conference to announce that Mexico has sued several arms manufacturers in a federal court in the United States, accusing them of negligent business practices that generated illegal arms trafficking that caused deaths in Mexico, in Mexico City, Mexico on August 4. , 2021. REUTERS / Luis Cortes
By Dave Graham (NYSE 🙂 and Laura Gottesdiener
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico sued several gun manufacturers in US federal court on Wednesday, charging them with reckless business practices that supplied what it called a “torrent” of illegal weapons to violent Mexican drug cartels. which caused thousands of deaths.
The lawsuit alleges that the 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 into Mexico.
The suit cites weapons that had entered Mexico used in notorious shootings, and notes that Colt’s “Emiliano Zapata 1911” caliber .38 pistol is engraved with the image of the Mexican revolutionary and is a status symbol coveted by drug cartels. .
“What is the objective? That the companies in question compensate the government of Mexico for the damage caused by their negligent practices,” said Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard at a press conference on the lawsuit filed in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts.
The lawsuit is one of the boldest steps ever taken by Mexico to pressure the US arms industry, which Mexican leaders have for years blamed for fueling gang violence.
The companies must immediately end their harmful practices, Ebrard said, noting that the court would decide what damages should be paid. He spoke after Mexican officials told reporters the lawsuit sought an estimated $ 10 billion.
The companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Mexico accused the companies of helping to violate its strict gun laws by trading in the country’s criminal underworld and thereby “actively facilitating the illegal trafficking of their weapons to drug cartels.”
Mexican officials said they had spent two years analyzing legal precedents about the negligence of US gun manufacturers.
They pointed to cases that include a recent offer by Remington Arms Co to pay nearly $ 33 million to families to settle lawsuits that claim firearms trading contributed to the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre in Connecticut, which killed 26 people.
In other lawsuits, claims of inappropriate marketing have been used as an exception to US law that grants legal immunity to the arms industry.
Mexico’s lawsuit says that more than 500,000 weapons are trafficked annually from the United States to Mexico, of which more than 68% of them, or more than 340,000, are manufactured by the companies in question.
Mexico has suffered record homicide rates in recent years.
Arms trafficked to Mexico were responsible for at least 17,000 murders during 2019 alone, a Mexican official said. Another official estimated the damage to the economy caused by the violence at about 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 was filed in 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 that several judges in the state were appointed under the administration of former President Barack Obama, who was seeking to toughen gun laws.
Mexican officials said the lawsuit was not directed at the United States government, and Ebrard said he believed the Biden administration was willing to work with Mexico to stop the arms trade.
Ebrard, considered one of the main contenders for Mexico’s 2024 presidential elections, has repeatedly expressed concern about arms trafficking in the United States and lax gun controls.
The announcement of the lawsuit 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 attacker was accused of deliberately targeting Mexicans.