Reuters-By Brendan O’Boyle
A gun delivered by a citizen as part of a voluntary disarmament program is pictured in Mexico City, Mexico April 3, 2019.REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
MEXICO CITY, Oct 10 (Reuters) – Mexico’s government filed a lawsuit against five Arizona gun dealers on Monday accusing them of participating in illicit weapons trafficking, a Mexican official told Reuters, in an ongoing push to hold retailers responsible for the deadly trade.
Mexican leaders have for years blasted illegal arms smuggling from the United States, with military-style guns often turning up at deadly crime scenes in the country.
The new lawsuit follows the dismissal by a federal judge in late September of a historic $10 billion lawsuit filed by Mexico against U.S. gun manufacturers seeking to hold them responsible for facilitating the trafficking of weapons to drug cartels.
Legal adviser Alejandro Celorio told Reuters in an interview that the new lawsuit, filed in federal court in Arizona, focuses on “straw” sales of firearms to customers who purchase them for someone else.
“There is traceability information that shows that weapons that have been found in criminal scenes in Mexico were sold by those corporations we’re suing today,” Celorio said.
The lawsuit, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, names as defendants Sprague’s Sports Inc; SnG Tactical, LLC; Diamondback Shooting Sports, Inc; Lone Prairie, LLC, D/B/A Hub Target Sports; and Ammo A-Z, LLC.
“Each defendant knowingly participates in trafficking guns into Mexico,” according to the lawsuit, which accuses the dealers of violating the U.S. anti-racketeering law known as RICO.
SnG Tactical and Sprague’s Sports declined to comment. The other dealers did not respond to requests for comment.
All the retailers named as defendants are based in the southwestern U.S. state of Arizona, which borders northern Mexico’s Sonora state.
“The wrong practices and the way these distributors sell their firearms have made Arizona the epicenter of gun smuggling in the U.S.,” Celorio said.
Mexico is appealing the dismissal by a federal judge in Boston of the $10 billion lawsuit filed last year. Mexico has said it will go up to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The lawsuits aim to address “root causes” of gun violence, Celorio said.
As with efforts to curb irregular migration across the border, “It’s not a matter of just customs or borders or infrastructure to stop the flow,” Celorio said.
In the Arizona lawsuit, the Mexican government asks that the defendants be required to implement measures to prevent arms trafficking, monitor sales and pay damages to the government.
Celorio said Mexico’s legal strategy was working “as a whole” and that the first lawsuit has already changed public opinion on both sides of the border.
“It is extremely positive that more and more people and decision makers in the United States understand that what could be legal in the United States in terms of arms trade is causing us harm here in Mexico.”
Reporting by Brendan O’Boyle; Editing by David Alire Garcia, Chris Reese and Leslie Adler
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