(Reuters) – Mexico sued several gun manufacturers in a U.S. federal court on Wednesday, accusing them of ruthless business practices that deliver what it called a "stream" of illegal weapons to violent Mexican drug cartels, leading to thousands of deaths.
The lawsuit alleges that units from Smith & Wesson, Barrett Firearms, Colt & # 39 ;s Manufacturing Company, Glock Inc., Sturm, Ruger & Co. and others knew that their business practices had encouraged illegal arms trade to Mexico.
The lawsuit cites weapons that had entered Mexico used in infamous shootings and noted that Colts 0.38-caliber "Emiliano Zapata 1911" pistol is engraved with the image of the Mexican revolutionary and is a status symbol coveted by drug cartels.
"What is the goal? That the companies in question compensate the Mexican government for the damage caused by their negligence," Secretary of State Marcelo Ebrard said at a news conference on the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Massachusetts District.
The trial is a of the boldest steps Mexico has ever taken to pressure the American arms industry, which Mexican leaders have blamed for years for inciting gang violence.
Companies must immediately stop their harmful practices, Ebrard said, noting that the court would decide which He said after Mexican officials told reporters that the lawsuit demanded an estimated $ 1
The companies did not immediately respond to a request for comment. their business practices.
and corruption within its own borders, "said Lawrence G. Keane, NSSF Senior V ice president, in a statement. He said cartels use weapons illegally taken to Mexico or stolen from the Mexican military and law enforcement.
Mexico accused companies of helping to turn a blind eye to their strict gun laws by marketing to the country's criminal underworld, thereby actively facilitating illegal trade in
Mexican officials said they had spent two years analyzing legal precedents of negligence from American arms manufacturers.
They pointed to cases including an offer from Remington Arms Co. about paying nearly $ 33 million to families to settle lawsuits claiming that the marketing of firearms contributed to the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre in Connecticut, in which 26 people died.
Allegations of improper marketing have been used in other lawsuits as an exception to US law that gives legal immunity to the arms industry and can make companies more transparent when explaining their activities.
"There are efforts that seem to be making ome progress in making the arms industry and in particular manufacturers reveal records of how they think about marketing, distribution and sales," said Timothy Lytton, a professor at Georgia State University College of Law.
Mexico's lawsuit states that more than 500,000 weapons are shipped annually from the United States to Mexico, of which more than 68%, or more than 340,000, are manufactured by the companies in question.
Mexico has suffered record killings in recent years.
The weapons sold to Mexico were responsible for at least 17,000 murders in 2019 alone, said a Mexican official. Another official estimated the damage to the economy caused by the violence at about 1.7% of gross domestic product.
Mexican officials said they expected it to take a long time to resolve the case, but were convinced of its success, noting that it was brought to the United States to ensure impartiality.
A Mexican official said the lawsuit was filed in Massachusetts because some of the companies were based there.
Mexican officials said the trial was not directed at the US government and Ebrard said he believed the Biden administration was willing to work with Mexico to stop the arms trade.
Mr. Ebrard, considered a leading challenger to Mexico's 2024 presidential election, has repeatedly raised concerns about US arms trade and lax arms controls.
The announcement of the lawsuit came a day after Ebrard traveled to El Paso, Texas, to celebrate the second anniversary of the murder of 22 people at a Walmart, where the shooter was accused of deliberately targeting Mexicans. Catalog