Mexico gets boost in legal battle against U.S. gun makers

February 3, 2022 - 2:6

TEHRAN- Just like the U.S. economy benefits from its arms flow to Yemen or occupied Palestinian Territories where civilian deaths mount by the day, the same can be said for Latin America.

Mexico has gained the support of more than a dozen U.S. states as well as Latin American and Caribbean nations who have thrown their support behind a lawsuit that accuses several major U.S. gun manufacturers of facilitating the trafficking of weapons across the border to extremely dangerous drug cartels, leading to thousands of murders.

Thirteen states and the countries of Antigua and Barbuda and Belize filed separate briefs urging a federal judge in Boston to not dismiss Mexico's $10 billion lawsuits against gun firms including Smith & Wesson and Sturm, Ruger & Co.

The companies argue U.S. legislation, “the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act”, protects gun makers from lawsuits over the misuse of their manufactured firearms.

But Mexico's lawyers hit back saying the law only prohibits lawsuits over casualties that occur in the United States and would not shield the companies from the trafficking of guns to Mexican criminals.

Democratic attorneys general from 13 states including Massachusetts, California, and New York along with the District of Columbia have agreed.

In August, Mexico accused American companies of undermining it’s country’s strict gun laws by designing, marketing, and distributing military-style assault weapons with methods that they knew would arm drug cartels fueling murders, extortions, and kidnappings.

The drug cartels have been literally waging war in the country and Washington has done very little to stop the flow of these dangerous and deadly commodities across the border.

The firearms industry is not only wide-scale in America but a lucrative industry as well, with congressional backing and analysts say it is being used in many sinister ways.

Critics argue Washington relies on a “war-oriented economy” whereby countries across the globe struggle economically with endless wars instigated from within the U.S., regardless of the conflicts are minor or major, whereby there is an ever-striving economy in America that survives wave after wave of depressions and catastrophes.

It’s clear what the effects are of illegal American weapons brought to Mexico each year from the U.S. and falling into the hands of criminals has on the country.

The funds allocated to the security forces to prevent the smuggling is taking its tolls on the Mexican economy.

Mexico says every year, more than half a million guns are trafficked from the United States into Mexico, of which more than 68% are made by the manufacturers it is suing.

The country says reckless practices by these companies are supplying what it described as a "torrent" of illegal American arms to violent Mexican drug cartels, leading to thousands of deaths.

According to the Mexican Foreign Ministry, weapons made in the United States amounted to the largest ever haul of weapons seized by authorities in Mexico over the years.

In 2021, an estimated 33,000 to 35,000 homicides took place in Mexico. From 2018 to 2020, there were more than 36,000 murders in Mexico every year.

The number of weapons that were smuggled into the country is difficult to say.

This is while more than 3.9 million crimes are committed in Mexico every year by criminals using U.S.-made weapons, 70 percent of which can be tracked to America, according to the Ministry.

Meanwhile, Lawyers for Antigua and Barbuda as well as Belize argue that countries in their region are also facing violent gun crimes as a result of U.S. gun manufacturers and distributors (from a single nation) "must not be permitted to hold hostage the law-abiding citizens of an entire region of the world."

Antigua & Barbuda and Belize are sovereign states in the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region.

The Latin American and Caribbean Network for Human Security (SEHLAC) which coordinates a network of non-governmental organizations seeking the disarmament of the LAC region and the world also made the argument that a substantial portion of violence in the region has been perpetrated using firearms unlawfully trafficked from the United States.

It says the unlawful trafficking of American firearms must be curtailed at its source: “the U.S. gun industry”.

SEHLAC has members in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, and Peru and works with other NGOs throughout the region, including Costa Rica, Ecuador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, and Uruguay.

It says LAC nations “have diligently pursued an end to this unlawful gun trafficking, but these steps have not proved capable of stemming the tide”.

SEHLAC submitted a brief to inform the same court that, although Mexico is the only party plaintiff, the gun makers’ business practices have also harmed, and continue to harm many other nations.

Gun violence is one of the most pressing public health crises facing the LAC region today. The region experiences a disproportionate share of violent crime.

It accounts for 8% of the world’s population but 37% of the world’s homicides.

American weapons manufacturers are a significant source and for some LAC nations, the single most significant source of illegal firearms.

The Americas suffer 17.2 intentional homicide deaths per 100,000 people each year, that is nearly three times the global average.

And the World Health Organization characterizes violence as “endemic” throughout the region.

This crisis of violent crime is forcing many migrants in Latin America where violent drug cartels operate to migrate elsewhere as a result of American weapons smuggling.

Critics say homicide deaths in the region began to fall in the early 2000s when the federal government of the United States banned assault weapons, but after the ban was lifted, all those gains were lost.

The principal cause of this abnormally high rate of violence in the LAC region is the easy access of illegal firearms.

As the United Nations has clearly pointed out “the availability of firearms is linked to the homicide rate: a rise in the rate of firearms possession in a country often goes together with an increase in the homicide rate.”

Firearm availability is linked especially closely to “homicides related to gangs or organized crime,” which are unfortunately common in the LAC region.8 Put simply, “firearms are key enablers of high homicide levels.”

It is, therefore, unsurprising that firearms cause the vast majority of homicides in Latin America with nearly four out of every five murders linked to guns.

By contrast, in other regions of the world firearms are used to commit less than half of all homicides.

The playbook for trafficking guns from America to the LAC region is widely believed to be well-known. Many guns are purchased at gun shows and other secondary sources, which require fewer checks on a person’s identity and criminal history.

Manufacturers and distributors like the U.S. gun makers supply weapons to these venues, despite knowing that many will ultimately end up in hands of criminal violent merciless gangs.

Furthermore, traffickers buy many guns from traditional firearms dealers. They commonly recruit “straw purchasers,” people who are capable of executing the necessary paperwork and passing a background check to unreliable and potentially dangerous customers.

Nevertheless, the U.S. arms manufacturers continue to supply these dealers with guns with little to no action from Washington DC.

As Latin America and the Caribbean suffer from U.S.-made weapons, the United States prospers. 

As is the case, on a much wider scale, with conflicts around the world in particular the West Asia region; the fingerprints of these continued conflicts can be traced back to the United States.