US President Donald Trump often speaks about protecting Americans from violence in neigbouring Mexico, erroneously referring to it as the “most dangerous country in the world”.
There is little reporting, though, about how loopholes in US gun laws are contributing to Mexico’s gang and drug problems. Although the Mexican military is the only legal importer of firearms, the US Government Accountability Office estimates that 70 percent of all guns recovered from crime scenes in Mexico between 2009 and 2014 could be traced back to the US. In 2017, Mexico launched nearly 17,000 gun murder investigations – a record number that surpasses US figures over the same period.
The Trump administration has also floated a plan that would make it easier for US gunmakers to sell small arms – including assault rifles and ammunition – to foreign buyers by moving oversight of international non-military arms sales from the State Department to the Commerce Department.
The Mexican government has been engaged in an intense war with powerful drug cartels since 2006, when then-President Felipe Calderon ramped up efforts to fight the trade, with financial support from the US. But the battle has taken its toll. Thousands of people have disappeared or been killed in the struggle between criminals armed with American-made assault weapons – often purchased legally in the US and then smuggled in – and Mexico’s increasingly militarised security forces.
The violence has caused many Mexicans to flee for their lives. Often, to the US.
So, how are US gun laws and American-made weapons contributing to violence in Mexico? And how has that violence affected the lives of those caught in the crossfire? In this episode, The Stream speaks with journalists, researchers, and gun reform advocates to find out.
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