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Mexico and guns: how do you stop the outgoing tide?

Post by Brian O'Neill on March 6, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
March 6, 2011 9:20 pm

In an AP article printed in Sunday’s Trib, we learned about the massive amount of firearms that daily cross our borders into the killing fields of Mexico. Using AP figures and a calculator, as many as 133,225 guns are smuggled from the U.S. into Mexico every year, while in 2010 federal agents (Customs, Border Patrol, ATF) seized a paltry 2,912.

In other words, for every 45 American guns approaching the Mexican border, only one gets seized.

No wonder our southern border, despite billions of Homeland Security dollars, is routinely referred to as porous. Commerce flows freely in both directions between our nations, with guns flowing south and drugs flowing north. For business-savvy cartels, this has evolved into an elegant bartering system; for the people of both nations, it has become a parasitic and crippling reality.

The recent increase in news reports on Mexican gun trafficking, however, is a direct result of the brutal murder of Homeland Security Special Agent Jaime Zapata. His death, attributed to a cartel hit man, was carried out using an AK-47 assault rifle traced–little surprise here–to a gun store in Texas.

Special Agent Zapata’s murder, however tragic, is just a single digit in the thousands of deaths occurring each year in a country beset by cartels battling over the multi-billion dollar U.S. addiction to illegal narcotics. Those numbers, because they are Mexican numbers, never receive the full weight of our attention. Also missing from mainstream news is the fact that cartels are quick to bypass a simple killing when mass murders, involving mutilations, beheadings and atrocities, are better suited to making their point.

Regardless of whether you are aware of the level of violence, there remains the simple question of what we are capable of doing about this problem.  ”You’ve got to stop them [guns] from going into Mexico,” says Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

That is not an answer to the question. The fact remains that we have yet to find a workable answer under our system of laws.

By now most Americans recognize that the presence of firearms in our society is a fact of life. Whether we agree or not, the constitutional right to bear arms has withstood repeated attempts to lessen or dismantle it. This legal framework, molded by the writers of the Constitution and continually defined by our courts, allows almost anyone to purchase massive quantities of semi-automatic handguns and rifles.  Many of these firearms then transit our southern border, at about a 98% success rate, straight into the hands of drug cartels.

Perhaps at some point, should the violence on our souther border persist (which it will) and spill across to the U.S. (which it has) we might finally be forced to revisit the question that incites a certain minority of Americans, energizes the National Rifle Association, and scares politicians into the fetal position.

How easy should it be to obtain a firearm?

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