American guns are causing death and destruction in Mexico.
A boy pauses as he speaks next to the coffins of Dawna Ray Langford, 43, and her sons Trevor, 11, and Rogan, 2, who were killed by drug cartel gunmen, during the funeral at a family cemetery in La Mora, Sonora state, Mexico, Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019. Three women and six of their children, all members of the extended LeBaron family, died when they were gunned down in an attack while traveling along Mexico’s Chihuahua and Sonora state border.
In August 2021, the Mexican government filed a lawsuit against 11 U.S. gun manufacturers and a distributor in U.S. federal court in Massachusetts, seeking damages and alleging the defendants knowingly market and distribute their weapons to criminal organizations in Mexico through straw sales.
My country has taken this novel legal approach because every year, more than 500,000 firearms are trafficked from the Unites States of America to Mexico. We have concluded that between 70% and 90% of all firearms found in crime scenes in Mexico come from the US.
In the lawsuit, Mexico has claimed that the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) — a 2005 law designed to shield gun manufacturers from lawsuits— does not apply in this case because it doesn’t have extraterritorial effects. The harm occurred in Mexican territory.
The lawsuit is not trying to change U.S. gun laws. Nor is it directed towards the U.S. federal government. We do not intend to question the constitutional liberties of American citizens to buy and possess weapons for their personal safety, nor question the responsible sales of weapons within the American territory.
Although the government of Mexico is requesting an economic compensation for the damages that it has suffered, the main purpose is to move the gun industry to adopt measures of autoregulation to prevent and combat the illicit market of weapons, and thus reduce the destructive power of criminal organizations in my country.
This lawsuit has also attracted unprecedented support from state attorneys general and U.S. civil society, who see in it an opportunity to regulate how firearms are bought and sold in the country. In the most recent stage of the procedural calendar, the Mexican Foreign Ministry has filed the response to the arguments presented by the defendant companies.
In addition to the memoranda and documents presented, various countries and organizations in the Latin America and Caribbean region; 14 state attorneys general; together with 27 district attorneys in cities of 17 U.S. states; victims of armed violence; organizations, and experts filed independent friend of the court briefs supporting the arguments of the Government of Mexico and providing additional information.
Let’s not forget that Utah families have also been victims, because of the illicit arms trafficking, of armed violence by organized crime in Mexico. To avoid the continuous pain and suffering of thousands of families in both sides of the border, we believe in this lawsuit as a matter of principle and moral obligation. We hope that, if successful, we may give a direct hit to the illicit drugs market, responsible of so much violence and harm to our societies.
Jose V. Borjon is head cónsul of Mexico in Salt Lake City.