Mexico sues US gunmakers, however will it make a dent in trafficking?

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Mexico City, Mexico – Three years in the past, Cresencio “Chencho” Pacheco turned one of many estimated 357,000 folks in Mexico forcibly displaced from their houses because of battle and violence.

Pacheco turned a spokesperson for himself and 1,600 of his neighbours who fled their villages within the mountains of Guerrero state when an area group armed with hand grenades and firearms took over the territory for drug trafficking and different unlawful actions.

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Based on bullets discovered on the scene, a number of the weapons wielded by the gang are believed to have been smuggled into Mexico from the United States.

The overwhelming majority of the folks displaced from Guerrero in November 2018 have by no means returned to their villages.

Crescencio ‘Chencho’ Pacheco (left) listens as one other member of his displaced neighborhood speaks, demanding safety from the administration of Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador [Photo: Ann Deslandes]
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Some are scattered all through Mexico, whereas many — like Pacheco — are actually searching for asylum within the US because of the persevering with risk posed by the gang that also occupies the realm.

His story is only one instance of how lax gun legal guidelines north of the border are fuelling violence in Mexico, which closely restricts the sale and possession of firearms.

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“It has destabilised the country,” Pacheco informed Al Jazeera of the weapons which have poured into Mexico. He is presently living in non permanent lodging within the US whereas he waits for a choice on his asylum case.

Earlier this month, to assist curtail the circulation of unlawful weapons, the Mexican authorities took the unprecedented step of submitting a lawsuit towards US-based gun producers and distributors, alleging that their negligence has led to unlawful arms trafficking into Mexico and fuelled violence and bloodshed.

Yet whereas the go well with sends a robust message, some contend it’s unlikely to curtail the circulation of illicit arms into Mexico.

Made in America, trafficked into Mexico

The lawsuit (PDF), which was filed in US federal district court docket in Massachusetts and is searching for $10bn in damages, takes goal at marquee manufacturers within the US firearms enterprise, together with Smith & Wesson Brands; Barrett Firearms Manufacturing; Beretta USA; Beretta Holding; Century International Arms; Colt’s Manufacturing Company; Glock Inc; Glock Ges.m.b.H.; Sturm, Ruger and Company and gun provider Witmer Public Safety Group, which does enterprise as Interstate Arms.

The criticism contends that 70 to 90 p.c of the weapons recovered from crime scenes in Mexico have been trafficked from the US, and that almost all of them have been made by six US producers: Smith & Wesson, Beretta, Century Arms, Colt’s, Glock and Ruger.

The criticism additionally highlights that “Mexico has one gun store in the entire nation and issues fewer than 50 gun permits per year” and claims that “a gun manufactured in the US is more likely to be used to murder a Mexican citizen (17,000 in 2019) than an American citizen (14,000 in 2019)”.

Family and pals attend a February 5, 2020 funeral procession for one of many victims of a taking pictures at a video-game arcade in Uruapan, Mexico, the place violence reached stunning proportions as cartels battled for territory [File: Marco Ugarte/AP Photo]

A report (PDF) by the US Government Accountability Office launched in February analyzing Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) information discovered that 70 p.c of firearms reported to have been recovered in Mexico from 2014 via 2018 and submitted for tracing have been from the US.

“These guns are legally purchased in gun shops or shows, mainly by US citizens and/or legal residents,” Alan Zamayoa, an analyst with world danger consultancy Control Risks, informed Al Jazeera. “Once acquired either by gun traffickers or single individuals, guns are sold to the criminal groups intending to cross them into Mexico.”

Zamayoa mentioned “the easiest and cheapest way” to move weapons from the US to Mexico “is through illicit crossing points along the border” – certainly, in the other way of drug smuggling routes.

Guns are additionally smuggled via authorized worldwide crossings, famous Zamayoa. This often happens in collusion with customs officers; arms additionally get throughout the border in items, with totally different folks crossing with particular person or particular elements, and “once all the smugglers and parts are in Mexico, they reassemble the guns,” he mentioned.

Because the figures within the February report solely signify the firearms submitted to the ATF by the workplace of Mexico’s federal legal professional common, the precise quantity is probably going greater.

For its half, Mexico’s authorities estimates that greater than two million weapons have been illegally smuggled into the nation from the US over the previous decade. They have helped gasoline a rising gun murder charge, which reached 13 homicides per 100,000 folks in 2020, in line with Mexico’s National Institute of Statistics and Geography.

Using the courts

Mexico’s lawsuit towards US gun producers follows different grand gestures by the administration of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, often known as AMLO, to push again on its northern neighbour and sign a departure from the corruption and violence of its predecessors.

Indeed, from threatening to kick out the US Drug Enforcement Administration to accusing the US authorities of coup-mongering, grand gestures of Mexican sovereignty have grow to be an indicator of the AMLO administration.

“The Lopez Obrador administration seeks to refocus bilateral security cooperation on reducing homicides and reducing arms trafficking from the US, among other issues,” Stephanie Brewer, director for Mexico and migrant rights with the Washington Office on Latin America, a US-based think-tank, informed Al Jazeera.

“The lawsuit comes in this context and sends a strong message on the importance that Mexico’s federal government attaches to this,” she added.

Gun trafficking from the US has helped gasoline Mexico’s excessive gun murder charge, which reached 13 homicides per 100,000 folks in 2020, in line with Mexico’s National Institute of Statistics and Geography [File: Rashide Frias/AP Photo]

As Brewer noticed, “This isn’t the first time that Mexico has signalled its interest in prioritising arms trafficking, but the current administration took this message to a new level.”

Mexico’s lawsuit might face a lot of hurdles, mainly the US’s Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which shields gun producers from nearly all civil legal responsibility and blocks victims and their households from suing them.

“US legislation makes it very difficult to sue gun manufacturers for the violence inflicted with their weapons, so the lawsuit faces a tough path ahead,” Brewer mentioned.

One of the gun producers Mexico is suing, Glock Inc, has labelled the lawsuit “baseless” and promised to “vigorously” defend itself.

Sending a message

Zamayoa mentioned that even when the ruling favours the Mexican authorities, it received’t be sufficient to have a tangible impression on gun trafficking quantity.

“Rather than reducing gun violence, a potential successful lawsuit is likely to be reflected in a change in the way criminals get access to guns,” Zamayoa mentioned.

One of the gun producers Mexico is suing, Glock Inc, has labelled the lawsuit ‘baseless’ and promised to ‘vigorously’ defend itself [File: Bloomberg]

“For example, criminals can become more involved in in-house gun production, or look for other markets outside the US to get their gun supply. Likewise, the theft of guns from security forces in Mexico can also increase,” he famous.

Still, Brewer mentioned, “this lawsuit sends a strong message to the US on the importance of this issue to the Mexican government”, even when it doesn’t reach court docket.

But, she added, it’ll additionally take reforms on the Mexican facet to completely deal with the difficulty of gun violence within the nation.

“Overall, the only real solution to Mexico’s criminal violence is through investigation and prosecution of criminal networks to reduce impunity and disrupt collusion and tolerance by state actors,” Brewer mentioned, noting it is usually essential to have “professionalisation and accountability for Mexico’s police forces at all levels”.

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