Lawmakers in Mexico filed a lawsuit on behalf of Mexico against ten American gun companies, which they say are to blame for the devastating bloodshed south of the border. The Mexican government filed suit against the U.S. gun manufacturers and distributors in U.S. federal court in Boston, Massachusetts, arguing that the companies have actively facilitated the flow of weapons to the powerful drug cartels.
The Mexican Foreign Affairs Ministry has claimed that seventy percent of the firearms used by the cartels were found to have come from the United States. It said that in 2019, at least 17,000 homicides were linked to trafficked weapons.
This marks the first time that a national government has sued gun makers in the United States.
“For decades, the government and its citizens have been victimized by a deadly flood of military-style and other particularly lethal guns that flows from the U.S. across the border,” the lawsuit read, adding that the flood of weapons are “the foreseeable result of the defendants’ deliberate actions and business practices.”
The companies named in the lawsuit include: Smith & Wesson Brands, Inc.; Barrett Firearms Manufacturing, Inc.; Beretta U.S.A. Corp.; Colt’s Manufacturing Company LLC, and Glock Inc. Another defendant is Interstate Arms, a Boston-area wholesaler that sells guns from all but one of the named manufacturers to dealers around the U.S., PBS News Hour reported.
Targeting a Mexican Audience
Mexican officials have also claimed that gun manufacturers have branded their products in such a way to appeal to Mexican customers. The New York Times reported, “The government cited as an example three guns made by Colt that appear to directly target a Mexican audience, with Spanish nicknames and themes that resonate in Mexico. One of them, a special edition .38 pistol, is engraved with the face of the Mexican revolutionary hero Emiliano Zapata and a quote that has been attributed to him: ‘It is better to die standing than to live on your knees.'”
The paper of record reported that a Colt model pistol was used by a gunman in 2017 to kill the Mexican investigative journalist Miroslava Breach Velducea, the government said. A member of a group linked to the powerful Sinaloa cartel was convicted of her murder last year.
However, such branding of firearms is common – and there have been plenty of firearms marketed to American customers that evoke patriotic moments from history and even feature noted historic figures. It would seem a stretch to believe that the branding was meant to appeal to cartels directly. In fact, just two years ago Thompson Auto-Ordnance, maker of the “Tommy Gun,” and other classic firearms throughout history, released a “Bonnie & Clyde” limited edition semi-automatic version of the classic M1928 Thompson – despite the fact that the infamous bank-robbing lovers primarily used Browning Automatic Rifles.
Yet, the point is that American firearms makers have introduced no shortage of themed firearms – and while some may honor “questionable” or even controversial figures, the marketing was aimed at collectors, not criminals.
Mexico and Guns
Mexico does not have a Second Amendment-style law that protects individual firearms, while the nation also maintains strict laws that have regulated both the sale and private use of guns. While it is true that the United States Department of Justice (DoJ) found that upwards of seventy percent of firearms submitted for tracing in Mexico between 2014 and 2018 originated in the United States, most of those guns were smuggled illegally – and were the result of the cartel’s efforts to maintain a flow of drugs into the United States.
Additionally, illegal weapons from China have also begun to flow in Mexico. Even if the lawsuit were successful and somehow American firearms stopped making their way south of the border, it is likely Chinese or Russian small arms would quickly fill the void.
American Gun Industry Responded
The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the firearms industry trade lobby, quickly fired back on the lawsuit.
“These allegations are baseless. The Mexican government is responsible for the rampant crime and corruption within their own borders,” said Lawrence G. Keane, NSSF senior vice president and general counsel via a statement. “Mexico’s criminal activity is a direct result of the illicit drug trade, human trafficking and organized crime cartels that plague Mexico’s citizens. It is these cartels that criminally misuse firearms illegally imported into Mexico or stolen from the Mexican military and law enforcement. Rather than seeking to scapegoat law-abiding American businesses, Mexican authorities must focus their efforts on bringing the cartels to justice. The Mexican government, which receives considerable aid from U.S. taxpayers, is solely responsible for enforcing its laws – including the country’s strict gun control laws – within their own borders.
“The American people through their elected officials decide the laws governing the lawful commerce in firearms in our country,” Keane added. “This lawsuit filed by an American gun control group representing Mexico is an affront to U.S. sovereignty and a threat to the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans to keep and bear arms. A right denied to the Mexican people who are unable to defend themselves from the cartels.”
Legal experts believe Mexico will have an uphill fight in court.
“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.”
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.