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Mexico’s Struggle With U.S. Gun Laws

Mexico’s Struggle with U.S. Gun Laws

In August of this year, Mexican President Lopez Obrador came out with a strong statement against weak gun laws – in the U.S. Following a mass shooting in El Paso, Texas that specifically targeted Latinos in the U.S., Lopez Obrador said, “We’re very respectful of what other governments decide, but we think that these lamentable events that occurred in the United Sates should lead to reflection, analysis and the decision to control the indiscriminate sale of arms.” 

A nation with roughly one-third the population of the U.S. and about five times the homicide rate might not seem to be the most credible critic of American gun laws. (In the U.S., the homicide rate is about 5 in 100,000; in Mexico, 25 in 100,000. For comparison, in Germany the rate is 1.2 and in Japan, .3). Yet it turns out that the large majority of the guns used in killings in Mexico come from the United States.

Mexican government officials report that roughly 70% of the guns used in crimes there are carried illegally across the border from the U.S. This is the illegal border-crossing that worries leaders – and citizens – on the southern side of the border most.

Ioan Grillo offers this look into a gun-smuggler’s life in a 2018 New York Times article:

“On a sun-scorched prison patio in this sprawling border town, a 23-year-old inmate calmly explained to me how he trafficked hundreds of guns a year from the United States to Mexico. He never bothered paying American citizen straw buyers to purchase the weapons for him, he said. Instead, he would go to one of the many weekend gun shows around Dallas and take advantage of the so-called gun show loophole to buy firearms from private sellers without a background check or proof of citizenship.

“He would drive back to Mexico with about a dozen guns hidden in refrigerators and stoves in the back of his truck, and sell the weapons in his hometown, a few hours south of the Rio Grande. His most requested weapon, he told me, was the AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, which he could buy for as little as $500 and sell for five times that. He became richer than he had dreamed, buying a house and new trucks and motorbikes.”

Grillo’s full piece is here:

A more recent, detailed overview of the U.S. gun problem in Mexico from PBS is here:

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