Mexican soldiers guard a crime scene.
Guillermo arias | AFP | Getty Images
The Mexican government on Wednesday sued several US arms manufacturers for contributing to the illegal arms trade in Mexico.
The lawsuit was filed in US federal court in Boston. Among the defendants named in the lawsuit are Smith & Wesson, Barrett Firearms, Beretta USA, and Colt’s Manufacturing Company.
The companies did not immediately respond to CNBC’s requests for comment.
The arms manufacturers are accused of negligent business practices that facilitate the smuggling of arms to Mexico and cause “massive damage” to the country. The lawsuit alleges that they knowingly supply the criminal arms market in Mexico. Military-style companies’ weapons often end up in the hands of drug cartels and other criminals who harm civilians and government personnel.
Mexico has reported historically high murder rates in recent years, some of which in the lawsuit are attributable to the arms trade from the United States in violation of Mexican gun laws.
“The consequences in Mexico were dire. In addition to the exponential increase in the murder rate, the behavior of the defendants has had an overall destabilizing effect on Mexican society,” the lawsuit said.
The Mexican government is demanding compensation for the financial toll and bloodshed caused by the alleged wrongful conduct of the defendants. Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said at a press conference on Wednesday that the government is targeting an estimated $ 10 billion, Reuters reported on Wednesday.
Mexico’s Secretary of State Marcelo Ebrard watches during a press conference to announce that Mexico has sued several arms manufacturers in a U.S. federal court accusing them of negligent business practices that resulted in the illegal arms trade that took place in Mexico in Mexico City, Mexico, on 4th, 2021.
Luis Cortes | Reuters
“For decades, the government and its citizens have been the victims of a deadly flood of military and other particularly lethal weapons that have passed from the United States across the border into criminal hands into Mexico,” the lawsuit said.
“This flood is not a natural phenomenon or an inevitable consequence of the gun business or US gun laws. It is the predictable result of the willful acts and business practices of the defendants, ”it said.
The compensation would cover, among other things, the cost of deaths and injuries to Mexican police and military personnel, social services for victims of gun crimes and their families, and strengthening law enforcement to prevent the gun trade, the lawsuit said.
Laws in Mexico severely restrict the sale of firearms, and the Mexican government issues fewer than 50 gun permits each year, according to the lawsuit.
But the defendants are undermining these laws, the lawsuit says. An estimated half a million weapons are smuggled into Mexico from the United States each year, and the defendants produce over 68% of them, the lawsuit said.
That means they sell more than 340,000 firearms to criminals annually, which flow across the U.S.-Mexico border, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit states that the defendants do not regulate their gun distribution practices. They sell guns to any distributor or dealer with a US license, regardless of whether they illegally sold guns to Mexico, the lawsuit says.
The defendants are also charged with marketing their weapons in a way that attracts transnational criminal organizations such as Mexican drug cartels. Barrett Firearms, for example, markets one of its rifles as a “weapon of war,” but sells it to the general public without restrictions, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit alleges that it enabled criminals to attack the Mexican military and police, and increased extortion and kidnapping.
Ebrard on Wednesday urged U.S. arms manufacturers to end their business practices which he believes are contributing to violence and deaths in his country, Reuters reported. He said he believed the US government, not mentioned in the lawsuit, was ready to work with Mexico to curb the illegal arms trade.