A coalition of 20 Republican attorneys general has filed a friend of the court brief with the First Circuit Court of Appeals urging a three-judge panel to uphold a district court decision that tossed out a lawsuit filed by the Mexican government against U.S. gun makers blaming them for cartel violence.
In his decision, U.S. District Judge Dennis Saylor rejected the claims by Mexican officials and U.S. gun control advocates, opining instead that the real cause of cartel violence are the cartels themselves.
The direct causes of that increase are, of course, the decisions of individual actors in Mexico to commit violent crimes. The indirect causes are no doubt many, but surely a substantial portion of the blame rests with American citizens. The rise of Mexican criminal organizations has been fueled by the unrelenting demand of Americans for illegal drugs, and those same organizations now play an ever-increasing role in the smuggling of illegal migrants across the border. The complaint here focuses on an additional indirect cause of that violence: the marketing and sales practices of American gun manufacturers and distributors.
According to the complaint, the increase in gun-related violence in Mexico is directly linked to the expiration of the U.S. ban on assault rifles in 2004. It alleges that when that ban expired, the production and manufacturing of firearms in the United States increased dramatically. In particular, gun manufacturers increased the production of military-style assault weapons, which are the type favored by criminal organizations. The complaint alleges that the manufacturers are aware of this and are “deliberate and willing participants, reaping profits from the criminal market they knowingly supply.”
In addition to the drug cartels, the administration of Andrés Manuel López Obrador bears some of the blame for the rise in cartel violence. Obrador has said he prefers “hugs, not bullets” in dealing with cartels, and has repeatedly denied that cartels are importing fentanyl into the United States or are the de-facto ruling authority in parts of the country; issues brought up by the AGs in their brief to the First Circuit.
“On the facts, American gun manufacturers are not responsible for gun violence in Mexico. Rather, policy choices by the Mexican government, policy failures in the United States, and independent criminal actions by third parties are alone responsible for gun violence in Mexico,” they state in the brief.
“And on the law, even if Mexico could establish but-for causation between the manufacture of guns in America and gun violence in Mexico, intervening criminal actions preclude finding proximate causation between a gun’s legal sale and the harm caused by it,” they add.
Mexico claims in its lawsuit that after the 2004 U.S. “assault-weapons ban” expired, an increase in gun violence in Mexico occurred. The AGs argue Mexico’s homicide rate decreased in the three years after the ban ended.
“For the first nine months of 2019, Mexico had 25,890 murders – almost six times as many murders per 100,000 people as in the U.S.,” The Wall Street Journal reported, noting that the country’s gun control laws were among the most restrictive in the world and “most criminals” weren’t getting weapons from the U.S.
The cartel violence in Mexico is horrifyingly high, and the country’s incredibly restrictive gun control laws have done nothing to stop the damage. In fact, there are self-defense groups in the country that have formed to take on the cartels and protect their communities, even if it means illegally arming themselves.
Toro – real name German Ramirez – was once a school teacher in Santa Maria Ostula, an impoverished, largely indigenous village in the municipality of Aquila in western Michoacan.
But he says that after suspected cartel hitmen kidnapped and shot dead his father six years ago, he found a new vocation training neighbours to resist brutal gangs fighting for control of the market for synthetic drugs and other narcotics.
“Every time they kill someone there are more angry families,” said Ramirez, 31. “That’s how people take up arms and our strength increases. This is what’s happening.”
The re-emergence of dozens of so-called self-defence groups that rose to prominence under the previous administration has exposed shortcomings in President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s strategy to bring down record levels of violence.
… Ramirez says he has more than 200 armed civilians under him patrolling highways and roads in the area, throwing out – but not killing, he says – unwanted intruders from marauding gangs.
He says local police rarely enter parts of rural Michoacan, let the self-defence groups operate and at times even provide weapons.
The reality of Mexico’s gun laws is that they’re routinely ignored by both cartels and those living under their thumb, but Obrador would much rather blame the United States for the onslaught of cartel violence, especially if the other option is taking responsibility for the damage done by his own domestic policies. U.S. gun makers shouldn’t be scapegoated for the actions of cartel members, and Judge Saylor was right to toss out Mexico’s claims last fall. Let’s hope the First Circuit does the right thing and upholds that decision, though if they do I expect Obrador’s administration will take their appeal to the Supreme Court in the hopes of seeing the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms act undone by a majority of justices. Given the current makeup of the court that’s a fool’s errand, but it allows Obrador to tell voters in Mexico he’s “doing something”… even if it’s not anything that will bring the cartels to heel.