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Mexico presses on in bid to halt guns

By SERGIO HELD in Bogota, Colombia | China Daily Global | Updated: 2022-11-08 09:44

Mexico is moving forward with a second civil lawsuit against gun shops in the United States as part of a push to stop the trafficking of weapons to criminal organizations.

"This lawsuit concerns a common cause of both Mexico and the United States, two sovereign nations whose citizens suffer when gun dealers along our shared border illegally supply the criminal market," Nicholas Shadowen, an attorney at law firm Hilliard Shadowen LLP in Austin, Texas, told China Daily.

"No person or group in America — whether pro-gun or anti-gun — should defend gun dealers when they facilitate the unlawful flow of weapons into the hands of criminals. Everybody loses in this situation, and everyone should be united to put an end to it."

Mexico filed the lawsuit in US District Court in Tucson on Oct 10 in the border state of Arizona against five gun dealers from that state. It follows a similar suit against eight firearms manufacturers that was rejected by another court in Boston.

"The lawsuit is part of a multifaceted strategy by the government of Mexico to stop the avalanche of guns, particularly assault weapons, coming from the United States that empower criminal groups, cause bloodshed in Mexico and contribute to drug trafficking to the United States," Mexico's foreign relations secretary said in a news release on Oct 10.

"A favorable ruling in this lawsuit would provide support for the first lawsuit filed in Boston, since it would prove that the gun manufacturers are negligent for not monitoring or disciplining the dealers who sell their products."

The Mexican government is appealing the Boston court decision, which saw a federal judge dismiss a lawsuit at the end of September, saying there were no grounds for action even as he noted that he had considerable sympathy for the people of Mexico "and none whatsoever for those who traffic guns to Mexican criminal organizations".

The gun dealers Mexico sued are in Tucson, Phoenix and Yuma — all cities in Arizona.

"Mexico's complaint is not new. It comes from the time that I worked there, some 10 years ago. At that time, there was a saying that the US side of the border had more gun dealers than religious centers or healthcare centers," John Marulanda, a retired Colombian army colonel, told China Daily in Bogota, Colombia.

"Those weapons are illegally acquired by Mexican cartels and from there, the weapons are exported to the rest of Latin America."

According to Mexican government data, more than 2 million weapons may have been brought into the country illegally in the last decade.

According to estimates from the Switzerland-based research center Small Arms Survey, there were about 13.7 million unregistered firearms in Mexico as of 2018, about one gun for every 10 people in the country, which has a population of about 129 million.

Marulanda said members of criminal groups from the region are commonly seen in photographs with weapons such as AR-15-style rifles, which are made in the US.

Also in Brazil, many firearms are traced back to the US.

"Based on our research, we find that they represent 5 percent of the total seized arms," said Natalia Pollachi, project manager at Brazilian nonprofit Instituto Sou da Paz that works to reduce violence in the country.

The writer is a freelance journalist for China Daily.

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