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MEXICO CITY (AP) — The Mexican government plans to bring another lawsuit against U.S. companies it claims are responsible for the flow of illegal weapons into Mexico, Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said Wednesday.
Ebrard suggested the new lawsuit could target gun shops or dealers in U.S. border states like Arizona who sell guns to “straw” purchasers who pass them on to smugglers, who then take the weapons into Mexico.
Ebrard said about 60% of the weapons seized in Mexico in recent years were believed to have been sold in 10 U.S. counties, mostly along the border. Mexico has very strict restrictions on weapon possession, but drug cartel violence has cost hundreds of thousands of lives in the country in recent years.
“Mexico is going to file the second lawsuit in Arizona, and we are going to show that many of these outlets where they sell these products in these counties I mentioned, are dealing with straw purchasers, and criminal charges have to be brought,” Ebrard said in an appearance before the Mexican Senate.
A recently enacted U.S. law defines straw purchasing as a crime, and sets out sentences of as much as 15 to 25 years if the offense is related to drug trafficking.
The announcement comes several days after a U.S. federal judge dismissed Mexico’s first lawsuit against U.S. gun manufacturers. Ebrard said Mexico would appeal that decision.
The judge ruled Mexico’s claims did not overcome the broad protection provided to gun manufacturers by the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act passed in 2005.
The law shields gun manufacturers from damages “resulting from the criminal or unlawful misuse” of a firearm.
Mexico was seeking at least $10 billion in compensation, but legal experts had viewed the lawsuit as a long shot.
The Mexican government estimates 70% of the weapons trafficked into Mexico come from the U.S., according to the Foreign Affairs Ministry. It said that in 2019 alone, at least 17,000 homicides in Mexico were linked to trafficked weapons.