It’s undoubtedly very good news that several federal and state authorities have joined together to support the Mexican government’s lawsuit against American weapons manufacturers.
What the weapons industry and allied politicians may have thought was a lone wolf venture against all that power could bring the topic of weapons back before the public.
It must be clear that for now, that the state and federal authorities filed an amicus curiae brief so that the judge does not throw out the suit and allows the parties to have their arguments heard in a civil trial. The greatest obstacle to the viability of the suit, according to manufacturers, is the Legal Weapons Sale Protection Law, approved by Congress in 2005. This law protects weapons manufacturers and distributors from liability for what happens with their products. The law has been questioned in cases before various courts with different results, but essentially, it remains in force.
That is the legal-technical side of the issue, but the fact that there is a trial, regardless of the outcome, gives a political push to the discussion in a complicated year that has been polarized by elections and Donald Trump’s return to the public arena. Let’s remember that Trumpism loves weapons.
For years, a number of Democrats have proposed regulation that would close a huge loophole in the law, allowing fake weapons buyers, or “straw buyers,” used by most traffickers.
Straw buyers are generally people with no criminal background who buy weapons for drug traffickers, violent criminals or other people legally prevented from buying guns. They usually purchase a relatively small number of firearms in each transaction, which helps bypass background checks and federal legal requirements. These buyers create a facade for the real traffickers; if they are caught by authorities, they pay a negligible fine. The other huge loophole allows supposed arms “collectors” to bypass the rigorous identification process required of other buyers. Initiatives have been proposed to close both loopholes, with no success.
The importance of yesterday’s support for Mexico’s case is that, if the lawsuit goes forward, the issue will be revived during the upcoming elections. Perhaps Biden and the Democrats have to alter the spineless attitude they have show this subject for a long time.