Wednesday, January 14, 2009

American guns in Mexico

(Photo: ABC News) I reckon the drug war in Mexico was one of last years great non-stories in the media - always bubbling away in the background, some good journalism going on, but generally not getting huge attention. I had heard that most of the guns used by the criminals come from sales in the US, but I hadn't realised just in what huge amounts:
...the arms that cartels can and do buy from the open U.S. market -- completely illegally -- leave Mexico's police force and even its military outgunned. There are nearly 7,000 gun shops along the southern U.S. border, about three for every mile. They sell thousands of hand grenades, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, AK-47s, and "cop killer" guns and bullets that cut through Kevlar body armor. The weapons quickly flow south, again with barely a nod from U.S. Border Patrol.
Can I just run that by any American readers - you can buy hand grenades and RPGs in gun shops? That is definitely a "WTF?" moment. The quote above comes from a very interesting piece at Foreign Policy.com. See this ABC News story as well.

I've just had another thought - watch John Stewart
and fast forward to to 4.20.


Everyone is doing the "if missiles were being fired from (insert you neighbour here) into (insert your city here), wouldn't you respond?" The Israeli ambassador to Finland was saying this the other day for instance. It's a fair enough question - and maybe the answer is yes. But how does that look from the Mexican government's point of view? "If hand grenades and cop-killing high powered hand and machine guns were flowing into your country from suppliers across the border in your neighbour - wouldn't you respond?"

11 comments:

KGS said...

Better inforcement on both sides of the border would be the best course of action, as well as constructing the same kind of security fence as Israel's, that would most certainly reduce the flow.

But then again, the US would be subjected to the whining of the international community over the "humiliation" all of these procedures would create for the poor Mexicans.

KGS said...

And of course the Mexican government is free to respond militarily, but I wouldn't advise it.

Quizbo said...

While grenades and RPG's may well be making their way into Mexico from the United States, they are by no means legally available for sale in the US. The sale of fully automatic machine guns is highly regulated within the United States (you have to become a Federally Licensed Firearms Dealer to possess one, which entails substantial expense and regulation, not to mention the incredible expense of an automatic weapon in the US vs. a semi-automatic version), but I've never heard of anyone being able to legally acquire a grenade or RPG.

So again, it's possible that somehow grenades and RPG's are making their way from the US to Mexico, but I have no idea where they might originate (grenades could possibly be pilfered from military stockpiles, but the US military doesn't use RPG's). The idea you can just pick these kinds of things up in border gun shops is the kind of wonderful silliness that comes from movies like "Commando" rather than real life.

Toby - Northern Light Blog said...

Reassuring to hear! So the AKs and other assault rifles they are talking about in the linked ABC news clip will "just" be semi-auto? The news clip also gave the idea that M60 the guy was firing could be bought in the US as well - but for that you say you need a special license?

Quizbo said...

If it was fully automatic then it most certainly required a very strictly regulated license (called a Class 3 FFL) to purchase. That's one reason why fully automatic weapons are so rarely used in crimes in the US (in small fractions of 1% range). I've always found it ironic that the gun lobby in the US uses this fact as a defense against an outright ban on automatic weapons, but then in the same breath will claim that fewer restrictions are better for other weapons. That said, I've never blamed them for being overly consistent in their positions.

Quizbo said...

Oh, and for the record, unless it was within 10 feet or so, I would be far more afraid of facing someone with a semi-automatic weapon who knew how to use it than someone with a fully automatic one who had seen too many action movies.

Quizbo said...

Sorry, one more note... guns are one of those issues that habitually falls prey to sloppy reporting. There are plenty of people in the US who think you can just waltz into the corner store and pick up an automatic weapon, because there are always stories about someone using a "machine gun" when semi-auto rifle is the actual weapon used. The gun nut crowd points to these kinds of stories as proof of some kind of liberal anti-gun conspiracy in the media. Having worked in television and known the people that create these kinds of stories, I'm far more inclined to believe it stems from a combination of ignorance and indifference. There are some reporters you could carefully explain the differences to, and in the end they would just say, "well, it looks like a machine gun to me."

Anonymous said...

one of the reasons it's been a non-story is that the drug cartels aren't shy about threatening - or shooting - journalists who get too close (see a recent On The Media for details). I have a friend who covered the Mexican / US border beat for a while and was pulled off when it got too dangerous to cover Mennonite bean farmers. He's got a book about it coming out this year.

I'll let you know when it comes out if youé interested. D

Anonymous said...

I should clarify: my friend was moved from covering drug cartels to covering Mennonite bean farmers. It never got too dangerous to cover Mennonite bean farmers.

Anonymous said...

The Merida Act sent some 1.6 billion dollars worth of aid (much of it military/security) for Mexico to boost it's border security with latin america. The US didn't spend that on it's own border, but I digress...

Thing is, a lot of that military aid, like the military training given to the Zetas, comes back. As well, the war-zone weaponry comes out of actual war zones in Central America and Yucatan. A lot of that stuff was shipped in to fight jungle wars and has just stuck around. That and Mexico is so corrupt you can buy anything you want off any official.

And some 14 states are totally controlled by cartels.

Whining about the relatively few semi-auto firearms that do go south from the US is an attack on US gun owners and gun culture, nothing more. The disarmament of the Mexican people (read Article 10 of their constitution and see how that jives with reality) is what's led them into such a lawless state now.

There are no citizens' bands or militias to go put down the cartels. There are terrorized peasants who hide while their family sends someone north to work because their own land is devastated.

Or they're rich, isolated enclaves living off Pemex royalties.

Mexicans are wonderful. Mexico is terrible.

---
Media reporting on firearms is similarly terrible. With the passage of concealed carry laws in many states, the media inevitably screams about how it'll be the gunfight at the OK Corral and "streets will run red with blood". They show pictures of siezed police firearms instead of responsible citizens, and a few months later when crime goes down, as it always does when citizens are empowered, there's no follow-up report.

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