Homicides in Mexico began to increase dramatically in the mid-2000s, when the country escalated its war on drugs. But the lawsuit points to another event that he says has contributed to the rise in violence: the 2004 expiration of an assault weapons ban in the United States. The lawsuit alleges that homicides increased at that time, “exactly as the defendants’ increased production, distribution and marketing of their military-grade weapon.”
“Several academic papers have found a strong statistical correlation between the end of the ban on assault weapons and the increased availability of weapons and an increase in gun-related homicides in Mexico,” Alejandro Hope, a Mexico-based security expert. âIs that the only reason the violence in Mexico has increased? No, certainly not. But it’s one of the many drivers.
“The trial shows very clearly that these defendants are not only keenly aware of the diversion of their products south of the border and the resulting carnage, but they are [also] aware of steps that could be taken to alleviate these problems, âAdam Skaggs, chief attorney and policy director of the Giffords Law Center, a gun control advocacy group not involved in the gun control, told CNN. the pursuit. of these measures, but they have largely taken advantage of their refusal to do anything to solve the problem. “
Lawyers representing gun manufacturers say they are âscapegoatsâ.
“These are the cartels that criminally abuse firearms illegally imported into Mexico or stolen from the Mexican military and law enforcement,” said Lawrence G. Keane, senior vice president and general counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), a trade association whose members are among those prosecuted, said in a statement. (A spokesperson for NSSF said the organization was not involved in the lawsuit.)
The trial has its origins in a shootout that took place north of the border. On August 3, 2019, a gunman shot dead 22 people, including at least eight Mexican nationals, in a Walmart parking lot in El Paso, Texas. (A 23rd victim died nine months later).
“I had a mandate to find legal action to get the Mexican government to do something,” Alejandro Celorio, foreign ministry legal adviser, told CNN. âIt all started from ‘let’s do something for El Paso’ to this is huge ‘the negligence of the gun industry is immense’ so let’s do something that tried to solve the big problem.”
Steve Shadowen, one of the plaintiff’s lead attorneys, said in addition to seeking damages, his team is looking to change the way gun manufacturers do business. “We are particularly interested in getting manufacturers to change the way they do business, to strengthen their distribution systems so that they do not continue to supply unlimited quantities of weapons to arms dealers who systematically sell them to buyers. straw and others that traffic to Mexico, âhe told CNN.
The manufacturers named in the litigation are Smith & Wesson, Barrett, Beretta, Century Arms, Colt, Glock, Ruger and the arms wholesaler Witmer Public Safety.
A representative for Glock told CNN that the company’s policy was not to comment on pending litigation, but said it would defend itself “vigorously”. Smith & Wesson, Barret, Beretta, Century Arms, Colt, Ruger and Witmer Public Safety Group did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.
“Hugs not balls”
Since taking office in 2018, the Mexican president has pledged to tackle the epidemic of gun violence in Mexico with “hugs, not bullets,” suggesting a break with the harsh tactics of his predecessors .
“[Lopez Obrador] seems to see security policy as a by-product of social policy. You’re just giving people jobs and welfare and somehow crime will decrease through some mysterious mechanism, “Hope told CNN.” It didn’t really work out. . ”
Hope said there are practical considerations for the timing of the prosecution – a political environment in the United States that increasingly lends itself to gun control – as well as political considerations. Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard is expected to run for president in 2024, which raises his profile.
âAre there any political motivations? Yes. Does that excuse the gun lobby from facing up to its responsibilities? No, I don’t think so,â Hope said.
Shadowen said he believes the law does not apply to crimes committed outside the United States. âWe have consulted with some of the world’s foremost experts on this specific issue, and we are confident that we will win this issue,â he said.
If the case goes to trial, gunmakers could be forced to release years of inside information about marketing practices and what they understood about how their guns fell into criminal hands, he said. Jake Charles, a Second Amendment expert at Duke Law School, told CNN. .
It could also raise awareness of the impacts of US gun policy beyond its borders.
âMuch of the gun debate in America has focused on the liability of manufacturers, distributors and sellers for damages that occur in the United States,â said Charles, the legal expert. “This will put on the table the question of how responsible they are – legally, politically or morally – for the weapons that are in the hands of bad actors in Mexico.”
Reporting by Karol Suarez of CNN in Mexico City and reporter Danielle Renwick in New York.