Lax U.S. Gun Laws Also Fuel Violence in Mexico

Global Exchange
Monday, January 14, 2013

As the Obama administration considers gun law reforms in response to the Sandy Hook massacre, a bi-national petition seeks to halt arms smuggling from the U.S. to Mexico

(San Francisco, CA, Jan. 14) —Amidst efforts by the Obama administration to reform the nation’s gun laws in the wake of recent school shootings, a bi-national coalition of civil society groups is asking the White House to include measures to prevent the international trafficking of guns that is contributing to drug-related violence in Mexico.

A petition signed by more than a dozen human rights and anti-gun violence groups — as well as 55,000 concerned citizens — in the U.S. and Mexico was delivered to Vice President Joe Biden’s task force on gun violence in Washington, DC this morning.

“In Mexico, most gun crimes are committed with weapons smuggled from the United States,” said Ted Lewis, director of the Mexico Program at the San Francisco-based human rights group Global Exchange. “The roots of Mexico’s drug violence are complex, but lax U.S. gun laws make it easy for Mexican cartels to get guns and escalate the killing.”

In the past six years, more than 60,000 Mexicans have been killed in violence generated by drug trafficking organizations and other well-armed criminals, and a militarized campaign against them by the Mexican army and police.

“We want to share solutions, not tragedy”, said Mexican poet Javier Sicilia, who leads the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity (MPJD) in Mexico City. “As neighbors, we ask for your help,” Sicilia said. “The same weapons of war that were legally purchased and then used against children in Connecticut are smuggled into Mexico by the tens of thousands every year.”

Last summer, Sicilia led a month-long, coast-to-coast MPJD “peace caravan” that visited 29 U.S. cities, calling for new federal legislation to regulate guns, and more rigorous enforcement of existing laws by the Obama administration.

He joined Sergio Aguayo, president of Propuesta Civica (“Civic Proposal”) this morning to deliver a copy of the petition to the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City. It calls on President Obama to use his executive authority to implement several immediate gun control measures, including:

1) Enforcing an existing ban on the importation of cheap, foreign-made assault rifles, and other military-style firearms (such as .50-caliber anti-armor sniper rifles) that are frequently trafficked from the U.S. to Mexico. It would also seek to include certain types of powerful handguns that are rapidly becoming “weapons of choice” among gun traffickers because they are easily concealed but have the firepower of a rifle.

2) Expanding a reporting requirement for assault weapons beyond the border states. Recent federal prosecutions suggest gun traffickers are expanding their operations to U.S. states further from the Mexican border. In the last few years, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Florida have become significant sources of firearms illegally trafficked to Mexico.

3) Enhancing scrutiny of available information, including firearms identified in prosecutions and in the Suspect Gun Database, to help identify firearms dealers supplying traffickers. These two measures would enable federal authorities to more effectively identify gun dealers who are knowingly selling to criminal organizations and disrupt cross-border arms trafficking. This could reduce the number of assault weapons and other military-style firearms illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.

In addition to Global Exchange, the MPJD, and Propuesta Civica, the petition was sponsored by the Alianza Civica, the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Cuéntame, the Latin America Working Group,, the Violence Policy Center, Fellowship of Reconciliation, and the Washington Office on Latin America.

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