The Mexican government filed a lawsuit in federal court in Boston, Massachusetts alleging that several major arms manufacturers helped to facilitate arms trafficking, and the violence stemming from it, in Mexico.
They claim that violence with trafficked guns has resulted in damages amounting to about 1.7% to 2% of Mexico’s gross domestic product, which was more than $1.2 trillion last year.
The names included in the lawsuit are major representatives of the arms industry. These include: Smith & Wesson Brands, Inc.; Barrett Firearms Manufacturing, Inc.; Beretta U.S.A. Corp.; Colt’s Manufacturing Company LLC, and Glock Inc.
Their basis for suing, according to the Mexican government, is that these manufacturers’ operations directly contribute to the illegal trafficking of weapons that are later used in violent crimes. According to NPR’s research, in 2019, at least 17,000 homicides in Mexico were linked to trafficked weapons.
The lawsuit states, “(The Mexican government) brings this action to put an end to the massive damage that the Defendants cause by actively facilitating the unlawful trafficking of their guns to drug cartels and other criminals in Mexico.”
A document related to the lawsuit, from the Foreign Ministry, states, the manufacturers “are conscious of the fact that their products are trafficked and used in illicit activities against the civilian population and authorities of Mexico.”
According to the numbers in the lawsuit, over half a million guns are trafficked from the US to Mexico every year. Of these trafficked weapons, over 68% (over 340,000) are apparently made by the gun makers listed in the suit.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation Inc. (NSSF) rejected Mexico’s claims of negligence and facilitation outright.
NSSF’s senior vice president and general counsel, Lawrence G. Keane, asserted, “These allegations are baseless. The Mexican government is responsible for the rampant crime and corruption within their own borders.”
These manufacturers have been relatively immune to such suits in the past, leading some to comment on the ingenuity of this type of lawsuit. Gun manufacturers generally avoid being held liable for crimes committed with their products due to the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA).
UCLA law professor Adam Winkler commented on the case, stating, “Even if the 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 gun makers.”