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Mexico's litigators say 2 gun-related causes could have broad legal implications

Litigators representing Mexico in two cases against various aspects of the gun trade say they could have broad implications for similar legal action in the future. 

Mexico first filed suit against major gun makers — which it alleges design, market and sell weapons in ways that arm cartels and fuel violence. A second suit against five Arizona gun stores argues that they systematically participate in trafficking firearms across the border.

Alejandro Celorio Alcántara legal counsel for Mexico’s foreign ministry, says gun violence there began ramping up in 2005 — after a law called the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act, which banned assault weapons, expired.

"The cartels started acquiring very heavy weaponry, and the armed violence that we live today in Mexico, started with this dynamic, in 2006, 2007," he said.

In court filings, lawyers for Mexico say the number of gun related to homicides in Mexico grew from fewer than 2,500 in 2003 to around 23,000 in 2019. They say that increase coincides with the increase in gun production in the U.S. 

In January, an appeals court reversed a lower court ruling and  ruled Mexico's case against gun makers was allowed proceed. A federal court in Arizona is currently deciding whether the second case — against the five Arizona stores — will be allowed to move forward. 

Celorio spoke to reporters Tuesday in a press conference organized by the advocacy group Global Action on Gun Violence. The organization's president Jon Lowy, who also serves as co-counsel in both cases, said allowing the legal action to move forward could lead to reforms within the gun industry that could have broad implications. 

"It's not to eliminate the second amendment, it's not to eliminate guns ... it's simply that there's a right way to do a business and a wrong way to do business," he said. "This lawsuit, and lawsuits like it, will lead to the right way to do business — safer sales of guns, which will lead to less trafficking, and that will lead to both reducing gun violence in Mexico ,but also in the United States, because it's exactly the same practices that are fueling the crime gun pipeline to the cartels that are supplying criminals and gangs in the United States, and the exact same practices that are supplying traffickers, arming the gangs in Jamaica, in the Bahamas, and in Haiti."

Alisa Reznick is a senior field correspondent covering stories across southern Arizona and the borderlands for the Tucson bureau of KJZZ's Fronteras Desk.