Earlier this month, the government of Mexico and I were named “Person of the Year” for 2021 by the Arms Control Assn., a U.S. organization founded by Army veterans and diplomats. We were recognized for Mexico’s ground-breaking lawsuit against major U.S. gun manufacturers and for taking “a novel approach to combat illicit weapons trafficking from the United States into Mexico.”
Receiving such recognition — for which I express my deep and sincere appreciation — gives us even more of an incentive to continue defending the lives and well-being of our people.
The lawsuit, filed in August in a Massachusetts federal district court, claims that U.S. gun companies are “knowingly flooding the country with illicit firearms, which have brought horrific levels of bloodshed,” as Los Angeles Times columnist Jean Guerrero wrote in November.
It is the first time a national government has sued gun manufacturers in the U.S. As we go after gun trafficking, our action addresses an indispensable yet missing link: corporate responsibility.
Of the estimated half-million guns that illegally flow every year from the U.S. to criminals south of the U.S.-Mexico border, about 340,000 of them are sold by the 10 companies named in our lawsuit. Seventy percent of guns recovered and traced in crime scenes in Mexico come from the United States.
The high rate of deadly violence in Mexico demands an innovative approach that considers actions by governments as well as those of commercial entities that supply the dark market with weapons and ammunition, the latent source of firepower for criminals. Just between 2015 and 2021, authorities in Mexico registered more than 138,700 homicides committed with firearms.
Mexico is taking legal action against gun manufacturers to hold them accountable and make them change how they do business.
We want them to abate and remedy the public nuisance they have created in Mexico, implement standards sufficient to reasonably monitor and discipline their distribution system to prevent illicit trafficking of their products, and to incorporate all reasonably available safety mechanisms into their guns, including devices to prevent unauthorized users from firing the guns. An award of substantial damages would also likely deter the gun makers and others from continuing or repeating their unlawful conduct.
The lawsuit aims to decrease the number of illicit guns in Mexico, weaken organized crime, enable Mexico to better address human trafficking, crack down on the flow of drugs north and decrease irregular immigration flows caused by armed violence in the region.
The COVID-19 pandemic brought renewed attention to how important innovation is to protecting the lives of our people and how long-term solutions require the participation of all relevant parties.
Governments cannot wait any longer to address gun trafficking and the violence it provokes: It is another kind of pandemic that spawns too much pain and jeopardizes the future of Mexico and the surrounding region.
In Mexico, for too long we have seen how violence has tragic consequences for ordinary people: Homicides committed with firearms are the main cause of death among our youth and the most used weapon to commit femicide. Gun violence has also orphaned about 40,000 Mexicans.
Before filing the lawsuit, Mexico had for many years pursued the many strategies available in regional and international forums. For two consecutive years, Mexico has presided over the Firearms Working Group of the Conference of States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. As a result, more than 50 recommendations were made to prevent, investigate and penalize arms trafficking and diversion.
At the end of last year, the U.N. Security Council approved a resolution submitted by Mexico, which states that small arms and light weapons are threats to international peace and security. It condemns arms flows resulting from the actions of non-state actors and calls for full compliance with previous resolutions on the matter and for greater exchange of information on arms trafficking routes.
Together, Mexico and the United States established the Bicentennial Framework for Security, Public Health and Safe Communities, aimed at guaranteeing both countries’ security and providing concrete results through programs that work in tandem.
Contrary to what some have attempted to suggest, Mexico’s lawsuit against U.S. gun makers does not seek to interfere with the 2nd Amendment rights of U.S. citizens. Our actions — like those of this year’s other Arms Control Assn. nominees and previous Persons of the Year — are aimed at saving lives and making the world safer and more peaceful by promoting a transparent and responsible firearms trade.
For us, a long-term solution to curb gun trafficking is nothing short of a moral imperative. Promoting and enforcing corporate responsibility by the major gun manufacturers is a key part of that solution.
Marcelo Ebrard is the Secretary of Foreign Affairs of Mexico.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.