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In a world rife with challenges, cooperation between Mexico and the United States is more important than ever. The growth in our relationship has meant that trade has increased exponentially, and we were able to successfully meet the challenge of sustained international trade during the COVID-19 pandemic. The closeness between our nations, however, means that there will always be challenges as we seek to navigate important issues that affect us both.
Mexico’s lawsuit against 11 U.S. gun manufacturers and distributors — among them Smith & Wesson; Sturm, Ruger & Co. and Beretta USA — is an attempt to hold these companies accountable for their negligent, complicit behavior. It is important to emphasize that this lawsuit does not name the U.S. government, nor is it in any way an attack on the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Rather, it seeks to hinder the arming of criminal organizations. The flow of weapons into Mexico has become a river of iron that directly benefits international criminal organizations and gives them the firepower they need to become a threat to society.
It is currently estimated that 500,000 guns are trafficked into Mexico via the United States annually, which makes up between 70% and 90% of all weapons used in criminal actions in our country. Gun manufacturers have become so brazen in arming criminal corporations that they now release weapons that seem designed to fit the tastes of criminals. This represents a significant threat to Mexican gun laws.
In Mexico, it is legal to own a firearm for self-defense. However, there’s only one legal gun store in the country, and less than 50 gun licenses are issued per year. Moreover, there are types of weapons that are classified for exclusive military use. Those are the vast majority of the ones trafficked into Mexico, which end up in the hands of dangerous criminal corporations.
This represents a threat to Mexico’s security, but it also imperils the security of the United States. Our geographical location, economic closeness and shared population means that whatever impacts one of us will have an impact on the other. The idea that either country can remove themselves entirely from the bilateral relationship is unrealistic, and even attempting to do so would result in mutual economic damage, as well as creating an economic void that other nations would seek to fill.
There are currently 1.6 million Americans residing in Mexico, and Americans represent the single largest immigrant group in Mexico, making up about 75% of the total immigrant population. The trend of American migration to Mexico is likely to grow as remote work becomes more widespread, and more Americans begin to embrace the many advantages of life in Mexico. Mexico offers a high quality of life, affordability of living and excellent medical care, which makes it an attractive option for many.
The current situation also represents a threat to Americans in the United States, as well-armed criminal organizations are better able to challenge security forces, thus increasing their ability to traffic illicit drugs to the United States and engage in other criminal activities.
Gun manufacturers and distributors have already asked the court to dismiss the case, but this legal dispute is still ongoing. Mexico’s legal team has until Jan. 31 to file its own formal response.
Without a doubt, these international criminal organizations represent the largest security issue that Mexico and the United States must meet and overcome. We are too interconnected for us not to overcome this challenge together. The question we must all ask ourselves as we seek to destroy these criminal groups is, do we want them to be armed to the teeth when we do so?
Héctor Iván Godoy Priske
is Consul of Mexico in Seattle.
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