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Mexico just became the first foreign country to ever sue the U.S. gun industry. Mexico has long struggled with armed gang violence, and while past presidents have focused on killing and arresting drug lords directly, current President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is instead addressing the root causes of the problem — such as the estimated 500,000 guns illegally trafficked from the U.S. to Mexico each year.
The lawsuit names the six U.S. gun giants responsible for 68% of smuggled guns, which have allowed drug cartels and gangs to become more powerful than the police with high caliber guns and military-grade weapons like rocket-propelled grenades. Specifically, it alleges negligence over how the guns are distributed as well as the ease with which they can be transferred to the criminal market and modified to be more deadly. Mexico is seeking up to $10 billion in damages, better safety features on guns, and tighter controls on sales — especially given how restrictive their native gun ownership laws are.
While it’s not the first time this year that Mexico has stood up to the U.S., it is a long road ahead. American gunmakers have extensive protections, including a federal statute that states gunmakers are not liable when their products are used to commit crimes. While there have been a number of attempts to overturn this statute — most recently from the Biden administration — none have been successful. Meanwhile, skeptics of Mexico’s lawsuit claim that even if successful, supply chains would simply evolve to find another way into cartel hands.