The N.Y. Times reports that Mexican President Felipe Calderón, in addressing Congress, issued an impassioned plea for the United States to renew its ban on assault weapons. Calderón reportedly decried the new Arizona immigration law as well.
Although Calderón’s struggles containing the horrific drug war in Mexico have been relatively well-publicized, the problem is largely considered to be a Mexican problem with only spillover effects on the United States. However, Calderón correctly notes that most of the weapons captured from Mexican cartel soldiers have been produced in and smuggled from the United States.
On the gun question, Mr. Calderón said: “We have seized 75,000 guns and assault weapons in Mexico in the past three years, and more than 80 percent of those we have been able to trace came from the United States.”
He said it did not seem coincidental that violence in Mexico had begun to grow in 2006, not long after the weapons ban expired in the United States. Drug-related killings are estimated to have approached 23,000 since Mr. Calderón began a war on trafficking that year.
Although the existence of “pathways” on the Mexican border has received attention primarily in because these routes are used to import drugs, illegal aliens, and forced laborers into the U.S., these pathways are also used to smuggle particularly lethal weapons out of the country. The Department of Homeland Security Quadrennial Report noted this problem:
Indeed, violent international drug trafficking organizations are fueled by the proceeds of drug sales smuggled out of the United States, and armed by weapons, some of which are obtained in this country and smuggled across our borders. Hostile and criminal actors seek to smuggle weapons, weapons components, bulk cash, and controlled technologies out of the United States, as well as seek U.S.-based financing for their activities.
The two-directional nature of the border has been forgotten in much of the public debate. In addition to quelling concerns about illegal immigration and raising the cost of illegal drugs, securing the border more effectively would render assault weapons significantly more expensive, and could thus help Mexico in its so-far futile efforts to combat the growth of the cartels.
The gun control issue raised by Calderón is more politically controversial; however, it is clear that the legality of assault weapons in the United States has contributed to the lethal capabilities of several large-scale Mexican criminal organizations.