What was supposed to be a routine search by Mexican National Guard troops is under investigation after an 18-year-old U.S. citizen was shot and killed in Ciudad Juárez.
Juan Carlos Medina died near the Paso del Norte Bridge after crossing from El Paso in the early hours of Nov. 20. Medina’s relatives say he was killed while trying to flee and want authorities to check surveillance cameras in the area. Mexican National Guard soldiers say they found two handguns in the teen’s backpack, according to Chihuahua state investigators.
One gun is described as “brown camouflage with stars,” with “Made in USA Glock in Smyrna Ga.”stamped on it. The other handgun was black and was labeled “made in Austria Glock in Smyrna Ga.,” according to the Chihuahua State Attorney General’s office.
While it is not clear why Medina may have been carrying the two handguns, bringing guns into Mexico is illegal.
Small scale smuggling of weapons across the border happens on a regular basis, according to Mexican officials who refer to it as “trafico hormiga,” where weapons are trafficked into Mexico as if by an army of ants.
In an effort to reduce gun smuggling, the Mexican government is suing a group of gun manufacturers — including Glock, Barrett Firearms Manufacturing, and Colt’s Manufacturing — in the United States. A hearing in the case was held last week in Boston.
“We are sure that we have a very strong case that will set a very big precedent,” said Mauricio Ibarra Ponce de León, Mexican consul general in El Paso.
CiudadJuárez has experienced gun violence for decades, leaving thousands dead.
Lawyers for the gun manufacturers asked a federal judge to dismiss the lawsuit. They claim Mexico fails to show “the manufacturers’ business practices are the cause of injuries inflicted by Mexican drug cartels” and that Mexico’s “alleged harms are derived from other victims.”
Mexico argues in the lawsuit the gunmakers are “not accidental or unintentional players but rather deliberate and willing participants reaping profits from the criminal market they knowingly supply” and that results in “shattering consequences” to the government and Mexican citizens.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry trade association’s leader, blamed Mexico for those consequences.
“The Mexican government should focus on bringing the Mexican drug cartels to justice in Mexican courtrooms, not filing a baseless lawsuit in an American court to deflect attention from its disgraceful and corrupt failure to protect its citizens” Lawrence G. Keane, NSSF senior vice president, said in an emailed response to a request for comment on the lawsuit.
The Mexican government accuses U.S. gun makers of “persistently providing a torrent of guns to drug cartels” and estimates half a million firearms are smuggled south of the border every year. The cache of smuggled weapons includes the Barrett .50 caliber rifle, which has been used against the Mexican military.
“In just a few years it damaged 15 military aircrafts, costing the Mexican government over $40 million,” Ibarra Ponce de Leon said.
Mexico has some of the strictest gun-control laws in the world and only one authorized official firearms store in Mexico City, which is run by the military. But the country has a thriving black market and Mexican officials estimate at least 70 percent of guns at crime scenes are traced to the United States.