At this point, it’s no secret that thousands of U.S. guns have illegally made their way across the U.S. – Mexico border and into the hands of deadly drug cartel operatives. State Department Secretary Hillary Clinton has indicated in the past that she feels “very strongly” that the U.S. and Mexico share co-responsibility in the drug war. Now, the Mexican government may be considering holding U.S. gun companies responsible in court. CBS reports:
CBS News has learned that the Mexican Government has retained an American law firm to explore filing civil charges against U.S. gun manufacturers and distributors over the flood of guns crossing the border into Mexico.
Sources say Mexico’s frustration with U.S. efforts to stop the flow of weapons has pushed them into this novel approach. The law firm is looking at charges that may include civil RICO [Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act]. The contract was signed on November 2, 2010 by a representative of Mexico’s Attorney General, at their Washington embassy.
Mexicans have good reason to be frustrated by the United States’ inability to stem the flow of guns down south. A report by Mayors Against Illegal Guns found that “90% of guns recovered and traced from Mexican crime scenes originated from gun dealers in the United States.” From 2006 to 2009, a total of almost 19,000 guns in Mexico were traced to the United States. An overwhelming majority of these guns came from the stores in Texas, California, and Arizona. News broke earlier this year that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives purposefully permitted 1,800 weapons to “walk” into the hands of drug lords and gun runners in an attempt to trace them back to high-level drug cartel operatives. And while these traced firearms do not represent all of the guns recovered in Mexico, there’s only one gun store in all of Mexico where they could’ve come from. That store is run by the Mexican military. The Brookings Institution estimates that 2,000 U.S. guns are smuggled into Mexico each day.
Meanwhile, the Mexican drug war has claimed the lives of at least 35,000 people — many of them innocent civilians — since 2006.
The Firearms Committee responded to the news that Mexico might sue U.S. gun manufacturers, saying, “it is wrong for anyone to blame America’s firearms industry for the problems Mexico is currently facing.” Richard Feldman, President of the Independent Firearms Association, suggested that “maybe we should be suing the Mexican government for their failure to prevent drugs from coming into our country.” Tea Party Nation also issued its own release which proclaims that “Mexico is our enemy” and that “Mexican President Felipe Calderon is about as useful as Joe Biden sleeping through a Barack Obama speech.”
While the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act makes it especially hard to win a lawsuit against the gun industry, Mexico may have have a case. Many of the guns that have made their way to Mexico were purchased by U.S. citizen “straw buyers” who were paid by gun runners to buy the firearms for them. Yet, there has been at least one case in which a gun dealers were directly involved in funneling weapons to Mexican drug cartels.
If Mexico can prove that at least one individual engaged in a “pattern of racketeering activity,” they might have a case against the gun industry under the RICO statute.
With all that said, even if Mexico does have a case against gun manufacturers, it shouldn’t distract attention away from the responsibility that Mexico shares with the United States. U.S. drug consumption is funding the drug war, U.S. guns may be fueling it, but ultimately, Calderon’s militarization of the drug war has only resulted in more violence and deaths.
The Wonk Room
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