Truthout.org has done a probing series looking at U.S. immigration and Mexican border policies. I’m going to attempt to summarize their reports here. According to truthout, Mexican citizens do not hesitate to name President Calderon, who took office in 2006, a primary perpetrator in the bloodshed of Ciudad Juarez, the infamous “Murder Capital” of the world. But first, it is important to point out that the illegal flow of guns into the country from the U.S. constitutes 90% of the weapons used in drug-related violence.
In 2008, the Sinaloa drug cartel declared war on the Juarez cartel. By adding the military into the mix, the violence only increased, and Juarez was subsequently named the “deadliest city in the world.” Spillover into the rural Juarez valley (population 20,000) caused a murder rate of 1,600 per 100,000 inhabitants.
“Mexican President Felipe Calderón, who has generally given the appearance of cooperating with the US war on drugs (only recently expressing that perhaps an emphasis on reducing drug consumption in the United States – or legalizing drugs – might be a more effective alternative) has become publicly desperate about the gun arsenal the United States is sending his way. In fact, in February, MSNBC reported that Calderón, “unveiled a ‘No More Weapons!’ billboard made with crushed firearms.”
One of truthout’s first articles in the series points out that some critics of Calderon claim that “he is using the US gun supply problem to deflect from the government’s role in the bloodbath in Mexico.” Tomato, tom-ah-to. At least it’s something, like the extremely effective 21 foot high wall erected on the U.S. -Mexico border.
Fun fact: did you know that “the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the firearms industry have ensured that weak gun laws enable even people on the terrorist watch list to buy guns.“?
That should sum up about how easy it is to buy guns, but truthout goes a step further, declaring that ever since the NRA’s defeat of a national ban on assault weapons, more and more military-style firearms in Mexico have been found. Statistics from the Government Office of Accountability show that 25% of firearms seized in Mexico in 2008 were high-caliber, such as AK and AR-15 semi-automatic firearms, which can pierce armor used by Mexican police. In Washington, the relationship between the NRA and gun manufacturers and dealers makes them a force no one wants to reckon with. A force that is so powerful, apparently, that Mexican cartels are one of their biggest consumers:
“It is important to remember that the gun industry is a manufacturing/retail sector Chamber of Commerce-style business, but with the extra dimension of having a grassroots lobby of gun owners – primarily aging, white males – who see any regulation as an infringement on their maleness and what they regard as their Second Amendment rights. As Diaz points out, it is an industry looking for new expanded markets that can increase their profitability as the percentage of US consumers who own guns declines. One of the industry’s key “innovative” products is military-style weapons, and the Mexican cartels are a large, lucrative end consumer.”
The NRA also opposes multiple reporting requirements for gun sellers and buyers. One particular requirement the NRA has been fighting is report of high-volume, federally licensed dealers in the four-state area contiguous to Mexico that sell many assault weapons to a single customer. The purpose of this requirement is to identify straw purchasers, or those who falsely state they are buying the weapons for themselves and are actually buying them on behalf of another person (check out the Texas on the Potomac blog for an interactive map of gun purchases and cartel killings). These individuals make large purchases to resell them at a commission to Mexican cartels.
Even with this documentation requirement, truthout maintains that it is still difficult for law enforcement officials to stop illegal trafficking of weapons to Mexico. The documentation form cannot catch a straw purchaser who purchases guns from multiple dealers or who buys them over the five business day reporting requirement limit. It can’t get through the “gun-show loophole” either (through which collectors can sell guns without any reporting requirements), or the multiple sales of assault weapons outside of the four-state region. The biggest obstacle is the NRA itself. Its influence on Capitol Hill is enormous. Their ability to elect pro-gun candidates and generation of massive revenue are difficult to contend with.
Of course, the case has been made that even if the flow of illegal trafficking from the United States significantly decreased, the cartels and the Mexican government can easily find other suppliers. Journalists are quick to point out that the Mexican government’s involvement in drug-related violence should not be ignored. However, fighting the demand for a certain commodity in a global market with a military strategy does not seem to present a viable solution.