The recent shootings in Uvalde, Texas and Buffalo, New York were absolutely horrifying and tragic. These two events and the litany of mass shootings in our country over the past 25 years is clearly connected to how easy it is for American citizens to legally obtain powerful firearms. Sadly, our loose gun laws are tragically impacting other countries too.

Mexico is awash with firearms purchased in the United States and smuggled over the border. These guns have been traced to numerous crimes and murders throughout the nation. Something must be done to prevent the senseless killings happening in our country and abroad because of our lax gun control measures.

In 2006, Mexican President Felipe Calderon declared all-out war on drug trafficking organizations. Cartels fought back and also intensified violence against one other, killing 150,000 Mexicans in the process. Many of the perpetrators and victims of these brutal acts are teenaged boys. Gruesome attacks are commonplace and innocent civilians are often caught up in the violence. A major contributor to this violence is Mexican criminals’ easy access to weapons in the United States.

Mexico’s gun regulations are quite strict. Guns can only be purchased directly from the government at one store on an army base in Mexico City. Obtaining permission to buy guns involves copious paperwork, including a background check and a letter from one’s employer. Guns are also far more expensive than those sold in the U.S. Furthermore, it can take months after submitting the proper paperwork to receive approval from the Mexican government to purchase a firearm. In total, approximately 16,000 guns are legally sold per year in Mexico and close to half of those are purchased by private security companies. Compare that to the close to 20 million guns sold in the U.S. in 2020.

For Mexicans to access American guns, straw purchasers buy firearms in states along the border with loose gun laws such as Texas and Arizona. These straw purchasers tend to buy weapons from gun stores or gun shows, which are of particular interest, because no identification is required to buy guns from private sellers at these events.  Many will also buy guns online through web-sites that facilitate gun sales between private individuals. These guns are then smuggled across the border into Mexico and either supplied directly to criminal organizations or sold on the black market.

Easy access to these weapons has exacerbated crime and violence in the country. A U.S. government study found from 2014-2018, at least 70 percent of guns recovered from crimes in Mexico originated in the United States. Moreover, these guns have filtered further south into countries in Central America where gang violence is rife and contributing to the large influx of immigrants fleeing to the United States. For example, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives found that, in 2014 close to 50 percent of guns found at crime scenes in El Salvador were traced to the United States. These are remarkable numbers!

Our loose guns are not only harming men, women, and children here in the United States, but they are contributing to the deaths of thousands of people south of border too. It’s time to stop the killing and the best place to start is making U.S. guns less accessible.

— Special to the Press Herald

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