Maine Voices: US gun laws contribute to overseas bloodshed

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The recent shootings in Uvalde, Texas and Buffalo, New York were absolutely horrific and tragic. These two events and the litany of mass shootings in our country over the past 25 years are clearly linked to the ease with which American citizens can legally obtain powerful firearms. Unfortunately, our loose gun laws are having a tragic impact on other countries as well.

Mexico is full of firearms purchased in the United States and smuggled across the border. These weapons have been attributed to numerous crimes and murders throughout the country. Something must be done to prevent the senseless murders that are happening in our country and abroad because of our lax gun control measures.

In 2006, Mexican President Felipe Calderon declared total war on drug trafficking organizations. The cartels retaliated and also escalated violence against each other, killing 150,000 Mexicans in the process. Many of the perpetrators and victims of these brutal acts are teenagers. Horrific 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.

Mexican firearms regulations are quite strict. Firearms can only be purchased directly from the government at a store located on a military base in Mexico City. Obtaining permission to purchase firearms involves numerous documents, including a background check and a letter from the employer. The guns are also much more expensive than those sold in the United States. Additionally, it can take months after submitting the proper documents to receive approval from the Mexican government to purchase a firearm. In total, about 16,000 weapons are sold legally in Mexico each year and nearly half of them are purchased by private security companies. Compare that to the nearly 20 million guns sold in the United States in 2020.

In order for Mexicans to have access to American guns, straw buyers buy guns from states along the border with loose gun laws like Texas and Arizona. These straw buyers tend to buy guns from gun shops or gun shows, which are of particular interest because no ID is required to buy guns from private sellers during these events. Many will also buy guns online through websites that facilitate the sale of guns between individuals. These weapons are then smuggled across the Mexican border 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 US government study found that between 2014 and 2018, at least 70% of weapons recovered in crimes in Mexico came from the United States. Moreover, these weapons have filtered further south into countries in Central America where gang violence is rife and contributing to the massive influx of immigrants fleeing to the United States. For example, the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives found that in 2014 nearly 50% of firearms found at crime scenes in El Salvador were from the United States. These are remarkable numbers!

Our unsecured firearms not only harm men, women, and children here in the United States, but they also contribute to the deaths of thousands of people south of the border. It’s time to stop the killings and the best place to start is to make American weapons less accessible.

— Special for the Press Herald


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