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Mexico sues Arizona gun shops trafficking firearms across the border


Mexico is suing five gun dealers in Arizona, saying they knowingly sell firearms to traffickers, who then arm drug cartels. There has long been evidence that guns found at crime scenes in Mexico largely come from the U.S. Now, a federal judge in Tucson is deciding whether to allow the Mexican government's lawsuit to go forward. Danyelle Khmara is following the case for Arizona Public Media. Hey there.


KELLY: Hi. So I'm thinking there is a U.S. government report that says a fifth, about a fifth of all guns found at Mexican crime scenes come from Arizona alone. Does that explain why Mexico is suing gun dealers specifically in Arizona?

KHMARA: So yeah, in arguments yesterday, co-counsel for Mexico said that these five gun dealers facilitate, aid and abet trafficking and that they're part of a small percentage of dealers that sell virtually all crime guns recovered in Mexico. But the defense says that this isn't true. They argue that they have immunity from prosecution under a law that protects firearm dealers from being held liable for crimes committed with their products, and they also say that their firearms are a small portion of weapons trafficked into Mexico. But Mexico says that these dealers are responsible for more than 2,000 guns trafficked into the country every year, and they cite dozens of cases where these gun dealers sold firearms to people who were later prosecuted for trafficking.

KELLY: OK, so the immunity you just mentioned, this is gun dealers claiming that U.S. law protects them from liability for crimes committed with their products. But am I right in remembering that an appeals court just rejected that reasoning in another lawsuit?

KHMARA: Yes. That's correct. So in 2021, Mexico filed a $10 billion lawsuit against American gun makers for making dangerous products that wind up in the hands of cartels. And then a lower court initially said that Mexico couldn't sue. But just last month the federal appeals court in Boston ruled that the suit could go forward. So the judge in Arizona is now deciding the same question - whether a law protecting gun dealers means that Mexico can't sue. And on top of that, the judge is also considering whether Mexico has standing to claim it was injured by the store's actions, whether the harms could be traced to the gun stores, and whether a ruling in Mexico's favor could even address the injuries.

KELLY: I mean, how big would - of a deal would it be if it happens, if Mexico is able to sue and succeeds in winning lawsuits against American gun manufacturers and gun dealers?

KHMARA: Yeah. So it's certainly important internationally, but gun safety groups in the U.S. have been backing these kinds of lawsuits, too, as a way to try to diminish the power and influence of America's gun industry. A U.S.-based group, Global Action on Gun Violence, has been helping Mexico with its lawsuit against the American gun manufacturers. And we should note that the U.S. Supreme Court allowed some families of Sandy Hook shooting victims to sue the manufacturers of the guns used there, and Remington Arms settled that suit for $73 million.

KELLY: Big picture, what is the government of Mexico trying to accomplish with this lawsuit?

KHMARA: Yeah. So the country hopes to force these companies to change their practices. That could include appointing a monitor to oversee sales, funding studies and advertising campaigns to prevent firearms trafficking, and awarding damages to the government of Mexico. The fact is that the gun violence in Mexico has steadily increased, and Mexico is hoping that a ruling in their favor would alleviate some of the violence.

KELLY: That is Arizona Public Media's Danyelle Khmara. Thanks.

KHMARA: Thanks so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Danyelle Khmara