Fueling the fire in Mexico


I recently wrote about the drug-related violence in Mexico and along our southern border. That generated some nice discussion. Even in the short time since I wrote that, the violence seems to have intensified: Already, more than 300 people have been murdered in the Juarez area this year. Yes, THIS year -- that's less than two months. The governor of Texas has called for 1,000 U.S. troops to guard the border. The Juarez mayor fled to El Paso after he received multiple death threats. The Juarez police chief resigned after six of his officers were killed, and the culprits threatened to do away with more if the chief didn't step down.

And there are signs that the bloodshed is spreading into the U.S. Last year Phoenix was number two in the world for kidnapping for ransom, second only to Mexico City.

But the latest news, reported by the New York Times, may be the most interesting. It turns out that because U.S. gun control laws are so much laxer than those in Mexico, the drug cartels are relying on U.S. dealers for a lot of their firepower. 

Drug gangs seek out guns in the United States because the gun-control laws are far tougher in Mexico. Mexican civilians must get approval from the military to buy guns and they cannot own large-caliber rifles or high-powered pistols, which are considered military weapons.

Now, there are different ways you can spin this. If you're a gun rights advocate, you'd probably say that Mexico's violence is proof that gun control doesn't work -- down there, the criminals are just going elsewhere to get arms. On the other hand, if the U.S. had laws that were as strict as Mexico's, then the narcos would have to go much further and through more trouble to get the big guns.

But there's also a tangential angle to consider. I've often been told that gun control laws in the rural West would be detrimental to our rural culture. There's a belief that somehow firearms are as integral to our identity as pickup trucks, Wranglers and cheap canned beer, and outlawing guns -- even if it's only assault rifles that are banned -- will somehow kill a piece of that identity. 

That's funny. Because if any culture is more gun-dependent than ours, it's Mexico's. They ban big guns. And their culture hasn't suffered a bit: Just spend a New Year's Eve in a small Mexican village and you'll hear how true that is (and watch out for falling bullets).


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