Mexico sued several US-based gun companies Wednesday, arguing that their business practices led to illicit guns flowing over the border from the US into Mexico, which in turn led to increased homicide rates.
The lawsuit, which the government of Mexico filed in a federal court in Massachusetts, accused the companies of “actively facilitating the unlawful trafficking of their guns to drug cartels and other criminals in Mexico.”
The companies targeted include Smith & Wesson, Beretta, Century Arms, Colt, Glock, Ruger, and Barrett, all gun makers, as well as a wholesaler in Boston called Interstate Arms. The companies did not respond to Insider’s request for comment or could not be reached.
The US government, which Mexico has long criticized for its lax gun control laws, was not targeted by the lawsuit.
The lawsuit said 70% to 90% of all guns recovered at crime scenes in Mexico, which has strict gun control laws, were trafficked from the US, adding that “this flood is not a natural phenomenon or an inevitable consequence of the gun business or of US gun laws.”
“It is the foreseeable result of the Defendants’ deliberate actions and business practices,” it continued. “Defendants design, market, distribute, and sell guns in ways they know routinely arm the drug cartels in Mexico.”
The lawsuit cited several specific examples, including a .50 caliber rifle made by Barrett that “can shoot down helicopters and penetrate armored vehicles and bullet-proof glass” and has “become one of the cartels’ guns of choice.”
It also said three guns made by Colt seem to explicitly target a Mexican audience by being given Spanish nicknames, including one that features the image of Emiliano Zapata, a Mexican revolutionary, and a quote attributed to him: “It is better to die standing than to live on your knees.”
The court filing also drew a correlation between the rise of homicides in Mexico and the number of guns manufactured in the US.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, a firearm industry trade association, rejected Mexico’s claims that the gun makers took part in negligent business practices.
“The Mexican government is responsible for the rampant crime and corruption within their own borders,” Lawrence G. Keane, the group’s senior vice president and general counsel, said. He added that the Mexican government was “seeking to scapegoat law-abiding American businesses” and that it is “solely responsible for enforcing its laws.”
According to officials, Mexico has only one gun store and issues less than 50 gun permits each year. A study conducted by the Mexican government last year found more than 2.5 million guns have illegally entered the country from the US over the past decade, The Washington Post reported at the time.
President Joe Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland on Wednesday laid out a plan to curtail gun violence across the country, which includes several measures focused on stemming the stream of firearms used in crimes.
The president has long sought gun control measures pushed by most Democratic lawmakers, including an assault weapons ban and universal background checks for gun purchases, which he mentioned during his speech.
“Crime historically rises during the summer, and as we emerge from this pandemic, with the country opening back up again, the traditional summer spike may be more pronounced than it usually would be,” he said. “I’ve been at this a long time, and there are things we know that reduce gun violence and violent crime, and things we don’t know.”
He added: “Background checks for purchasing a firearm are important … the ban on assault weapons at high-capacity magazines. No one needs to have a weapon that can fire up to 100 rounds, unless you think the deer are wearing kevlar vests or something.”
A key focus of the administration will be the pursuit of gun sellers who violate existing law, with Biden stating that the Department of Justice would have a “zero tolerance” approach to such incidents.
“We are announcing a major crackdown the stem of flow of guns used to commit violent crimes,” he said.”It is zero tolerance for those who willfully violate key existing laws and regulations.”
He added: “If you willfully sell a gun to someone who is prohibited from possessing it, if you willfully fail to run a background check, if you willfully falsify a record, if you willfully fail to cooperate with the tracing requests or inspections, my message to you is this … ‘We’ll find you and we’ll seek your license to sell guns.'”
In his speech, Biden also stressed that state and local officials in areas that are experiencing increases in crime can utilize $350 billion in funding from the $1.9 COVID-19 relief package known as the American Rescue Plan, which was signed into law in March.
Yesterday, the Department of Justice announced new strike forces aimed at tackling gun trafficking in five key metropolitan regions – New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay area, and Washington, DC.
Biden’s actions come as violent crime has become an issue as the country continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, which created sustained economic hardship for millions of Americans.
After the May 2020 murder of George Floyd while in custody of the Minneapolis police, the calls for justice were immediate, especially among Black Americans.
While Biden, who has a long legislative record on criminal justice issues as a senator and as vice president, has so far risen above becoming an effective foil for Republicans, increases in violent crime have become an issue in many cities.
According to criminologists, homicide rates in large US cities rose by more than 30 percent on average last year, and rates were up by another 24 percent for the beginning of the year, The New York Times reported.
Biden has vehemently opposed the “defunding” of police departments and has backed bipartisan talks aimed at crafting police reform legislation.
On Wednesday, Biden and Garland also led an anti-violence meeting at the White House with Democratic Mayors Brandon Scott of Baltimore and Daniella Levine Cava of Miami-Dade County, along with GOP Mayor Steve Allender of Rapid City, S.D., New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, Baton Rouge, La., police chief Murphy Paul, and several community activists.
The third gives local jurisdictions control over gun rights by repealing an existing ban that prevented cities from passing their own gun laws and has renewed interest in Boulder for an assault weapons ban. Almost all states have similar laws, known as preemption laws, that prevent local gun laws, according to the National Rifle Association.
Despite the former ban, Boulder had enacted its own local ban on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines in 2018, though it had not yet been enforced. On March 12, a judge ruled the ban violated Colorado state law, citing the preemption law, and struck it down.
Just 10 days later, a gunman killed 10 people at a supermarket in the city using an AR-556, an AR-15-style semi-automatic pistol, that he had purchased days prior. The gun would have been covered by the ban, according to The Denver Post, because it included guns that can use external magazines. He purchased the gun in another city, though Boulder’s ban would have made it illegal for him to carry it in the city.
Boulder is again looking at the ban now that the new state bill allows for cities to set their own gun laws. Mayor Sam Weaver told The Wall Street Journal he believes the new bill will negate the legal challenges to the assault weapons ban, effectively putting it into effect. He also said the city will do what it takes to make the ban enforceable.
“In theory, if we didn’t have this law, you could go buy an assault weapon, and then walk across the street and shoot a bunch of students,” Weaver told the Journal. “So we would like to have it in place to prevent rash actions with assault weapons in Boulder.”
The pre-emption laws gained traction in the 1980s after Democrat-led cities passed gun laws in states controlled by lawmakers who were more conservative, The Journal reported. The NRA and other gun-rights advocates have strongly supported pre-emption laws.
Polis had signed two additional gun bills into law earlier this year following the supermarket shooting, including regulations for gun storage and requirements for reporting stolen or missing firearms. Another bill that passed and awaits the governor’s signature seeks to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers.
“The question of how the boy was able to pick up and fire the weapon is of great concern and is being investigated,” Merry told reporters. “This situation, while disturbing, could have had an even more tragic ending. We are thankful that the injuries were not more serious.”
In response to the shooting, the Maine Gun Safety Coalition (MGSC) is pushing for a bill that requires gun owners to keep loaded guns out of children’s reach.
The MGCS is supporting Bill LL 759, WMTV reported. If passed, the law would hold gun owners criminally responsible if a child can access and use a loaded firearm that was not properly stored.
“Even toddlers know where guns are kept. So, these guns need to be secured,” Rep. Vickie Doudera, who is sponsoring the bill, told WMTV. “They need to be in a locked safe, or they need a trigger lock, a slide lock, or something that keeps a kid from being able to fire it.”
It was the Pulse nightclub shooting for me. I spent hours glued to the news, shaking with anger and fear. That hate crime sent plenty of people in search of more restrictive gun laws, but it sent me and an awful lot of others in the opposite direction. Over the next few years, I started going to shooting ranges more. I took a two-day concealed carry class. Now, like millions of Americans, I’m a gun owner. Importantly, I’m part of what looks like a demographicshift in gun ownership in the US.
I’m a woman in the rural South, and I’m very visibly trans. I unintentionally find myself in the center of a culture war; the way people treat me, in cities or the countryside, has changed dramatically since Trump’s election in 2016. The stares are longer, the sneers more open. Before gender identity became so politicized in the past few years, I was a curiosity. Now, I’m a walking symbol of everything the far-right hates.
Through my activism and my art, I have found myself in the crosshairs of the local far-right. A local news outlet once ran a satanic-panic style story about one of my music videos, and the more overtly fascist groups have sent me pictures of my family alongside my license plate number and home address.
I have always supposed that my safety is something I need to guarantee for myself – that no one else was going to do it for me. Since the people who hate people like me are famously well-armed, I determined I would be as well.
It wasn’t a simple decision, nor one that I would ever recommend anyone take lightly. The risk-benefit analysis of owning a tool like a firearm must always be ongoing. Yet as I’ve become increasingly comfortable with firearms, I’ve also come to realize just how misguided most efforts at gun control truly are.
Biden’s gun control legislation is misguided
Frankly, I believe that Biden’s executive orders and proposed legislation will disproportionately affect marginalized groups, both in terms of enforcement and in terms of access to the tools of self-defense. Because the legislation does not understand the gun community, I also believe the proposed laws are a gift to the far-right’s recruitment efforts.
When people talk about “common sense gun laws,” it sure feels like they mean the opposite. Gun owners are very aware of the labyrinthine laws that surround the ownership and use of guns, how they vary state by state, and what will and won’t bring the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) down on their heads. Many attempts to make laws more “common sense” end up making them even more confusing and contradictory – and can easily criminalize people who are trying to follow the law.
Take the arm brace for example. An arm brace on a pistol allows you to shoot more accurately. In 2014, the ATF ruled that you could stabilize the brace against your shoulder, if you wanted, without the gun being considered a short-barreled rifle, which are more heavily regulated and taxed. Then in 2015, they changed their mind. The exact same legal firearm, owned by millions, would be legal if shot normally, but illegal if shot with the arm brace held against the shoulder – unless the gun owner paid a $200 tax and filed the right paperwork. In 2017, they reversed again. All this because of quibbles over the definition of a rifle, which isn’t legally concealable, whereas a pistol often is.
That is to say, Biden is telling millions of law-abiding Americans that they better pony up hundreds of dollars or else become criminals because of arbitrary distinctions in the length of the barrel of a gun they own. If the goal of legislation is to prevent mass shootings, calling a pistol fitted with an arm brace a rifle – and thus illegal to conceal – is the most unhelpful of legal technicalities. Shooters planning to murder a crowd of people are not concerned with the legality of how they carry their gun.
This type of legislation is a gift to far-right recruitment, which, according to leaked Telegram chats, relies on using gun rights advocacy and the fear of gun confiscation to push people further to the right. One recruitment guide listed gun control as a way to “find common ground” before introducing someone to more fringe ideas. Guns should never have become a right versus left issue.
I grew up largely outside of gun culture. My father is a Marine with a medal for marksmanship, and I shot a .22 at Boy Scout camp in middle school, but guns didn’t play any large role in my life.
When you don’t own a gun, it’s really hard to care about gun law. It doesn’t risk criminalizing you or too many people you know. We live in bubbles in the US. If you own a gun, your friends likely do too. If you don’t, your friends probably don’t.
Most advocates for gun control do not understand firearms, firearm law, or firearm culture. When people tell you what to do, while making it clear they don’t have the first idea what they’re talking about, it is always going to rub you the wrong way.
I own a gun and most of my neighbors own guns. Some of them hunt. Some of them are veterans. Some of them are concerned with self-defense. My neighbors in rural North Carolina, just like my neighbors when I’ve lived in major cities, run the full gamut of political affiliations. None of them operate under the illusion that the police would keep them safe in case of an emergency. Safety comes from knowing your neighbors. Safety comes, sometimes, from being armed.
Gun ownership as a symbol
What I didn’t realize, until I was in the environment I’m in now, is the importance of the gun as a symbol for many communities. A rifle in a safe, or a handgun on a bed stand, says, “I’ll never go hungry, because I can hunt.” It also says, “I will not be a passive victim of a violent attack.” It says: “Me and the people I love are the ones who keep ourselves fed and safe.”
Taking that away from someone, or just making it even more legally complex to own a gun, will never go over well. No amount of statistics will ever outweigh the emotional and symbolic importance of that ability for self-determination. The far-right heavily leverages that symbolic weight for recruitment – perhaps more than anything else.
I’m not advocating for universal gun ownership. I don’t believe an armed society is a polite society. I also recognize that for a lot of people – maybe even most people – gun ownership makes them less safe instead of more safe
There’s a slogan, albeit a cynical one, that people involved in mutual aid organizing use that resonates a lot with me: “We keep us safe.”
There are people who want to hurt me for who I am, and I don’t want to let them. My safety is my responsibility. Maybe it shouldn’t be, in some perfect society, but we don’t live in a perfect society. We live in the USA.