Mexican Government Sues U.S. Gun Industry for Arming Drug Cartels

By Shani Saxon Aug 10, 2021

The Mexican government on August 4 filed a lawsuit against leading gun manufacturers in Massachusetts federal court, VICE News reports. The filing states they are “actively facilitating the unlawful trafficking of their guns to drug cartels and other criminals in Mexico.”

VICE Reports:

The lawsuit names among others Smith & Wesson, Beretta, Century Arms, Colt, Glock and Ruger. Their guns are the ones most often recovered in Mexico, according to the complaint from the Mexican government. It also lists Barrett, “whose .50 caliber sniper rifle is a weapon of war prized by the drug cartels,” and the Boston-area wholesaler “Interstate Arms,” which sells the guns of all but one of the companies. 

This move by Mexico appears to be unprecedented, but it wasn’t surprising. Mexico, VICE reports, has been complaining for years that “the U.S. has failed to effectively address the trafficking of arms from the U.S. to Mexico.”

According to VICE:

While Mexico has just one gun store in the country and issues fewer than 50 permits per year, an estimated half a million guns flow into Mexico annually from the U.S., the lawsuit alleges. In 2019, 17,000 Mexican citizens were murdered with guns manufactured in the U.S. — compared with only 14,000 American citizens, the complaint says. 

“Defendants are not accidental or unintentional players in this tragedy; they are deliberate and willing participants, repeating profits from the criminal market they knowingly supply — heedless of the shattering consequences to the Government and its citizens,” the lawsuit states. 

The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the U.S. firearm industry’s trade association, said in a statement obtained by NPR that this lawsuit lacks merit. 

"These allegations are baseless. The Mexican government is responsible for the rampant crime and corruption within their own borders," said Lawrence G. Keane, the group’s senior vice president and general counsel. The Mexican government is responsible for enforcing its laws, he said.

According to NPR, Alejandro Celorio, legal advisor for the Mexican government, told reporters on August 4 that “the damage caused by the trafficked guns would be equal to 1.7% to 2% of Mexico’s gross domestic product. The government will seek at least $10 billion in compensation, he said. Mexico’s GDP last year was more than $1.2 trillion.”

"We don’t do it to pressure the United States," Celorio said. "We do it so there aren’t deaths in Mexico."

Adam Winkler, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles and expert on gun policy, told NPR that Mexico’s effort is a "long shot."

"It is a bold and innovative lawsuit," he said. "We haven’t seen anything like this before. The gun manufacturers have enjoyed broad immunity from lawsuits for now two decades."

Winkler continued, "Over the past year or so, we’ve seen some cracks in the immunity armor provided by federal law." "Even if this lawsuit moves forward, it will be extremely difficult for Mexico to win because it will be hard to show that this distribution process or their distribution practices are a manifestation of negligence on the part of the gun makers."