Mexico, we are oft reminded, is a cesspool of violence. Drug cartel-related violence has led to a murder rate five times higher than the United States — and guns, it seems unnecessary to add, play a huge role in this.
So, where do these criminals get their firearms? Well, as one of the top firearms scholars in America likes to point out, it’s certainly not through a legal process.
John R. Lott Jr. is the president of the Crime Prevention Resource Center. He’s been busy throwing cold water on the Michael Bloomberg crowd since before Michael Bloomberg was the face of it. His most well-known book, 1998’s “More Guns, Less Crime,” gave compelling statistical evidence for that old conservative maxim. He’s been doing so in various forms ever since.
Lott stumbled upon a Wall Street Journal article from last week referencing the deaths from Mexico’s ongoing problem with gang violence.
Mexico’s officially had 31,174 murders in 2017, a rate 5 times the US rate, but was the true rate a little higher. ‘It’s a Crisis of Civilization in Mexico.’ 250,000 Dead. 37,400 Missing. https://t.co/jtlDDlCkD5
— John R Lott Jr. (@JohnRLottJr) November 19, 2018
Those are some pretty galling facts buttressed by equally galling stories. You may get the point, but Lott drove home just how much of a point it is:
Of course, Mexico only has one gun store, which is run by the military. Guns are very expensive, and the largest caliber gun Mexicans can legally own is a .22 caliber.
— John R Lott Jr. (@JohnRLottJr) November 19, 2018
The Los Angeles Times ran a story about this gun store in back in May.
“The only gun shop in all of Mexico is behind a fortress-like wall on a heavily guarded military base,” reporter Kate Linthicum wrote.
“To enter the Directorate of Arms and Munitions Sales, customers must undergo months of background checks — six documents are required — and then be frisked by uniformed soldiers.
“The army-run store on the outskirts of Mexico City embodies the country’s cautious approach to firearms, and a visit here illustrates the dramatically different ways two neighboring countries view guns, legally and culturally.”
So, where is the gun violence coming from? Prepare not to be shocked by Linthicum’s conclusion.
“American firearms are directly driving the violence, although U.S. appetites for drugs and rampant corruption among Mexican officials also play a role,” she wrote.
“About 70% of guns recovered by Mexican law enforcement officials from 2011 to 2016 were originally purchased from legal gun dealers in the United States, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.”
The lament is common, of course — these weapons come from El Norte. There seems to be a larger issue here, which is that the truth of the matter flows more universally from the omitted (but implied) adjective than from the noun: It isn’t that criminals get these guns from America, it’s that they get these guns illegally from America.
It’s so glaringly obvious that it shouldn’t need to be said, but it has to be: Criminal intent precedes criminal acts.
And yes, we ought to make it more difficult for those possessed of criminal intent to commit criminal acts, but the same crowd that would cite this as a reason to curtail our constitutional rights is also, as a matter of prepackaged political belief, adamantly opposed to the one policy initiative that would have the greatest impact on the ability to access these weapons: increased border security to ensure these weapons don’t go into Mexico. That border security would also ensure that the drugs fueling the violence don’t traverse the opposite direction.
Or maybe they’re acknowledging another fact: It isn’t necessarily the ease of access to the weapon that influences violent criminality but instead the desire toward violent criminality that creates the ease of access to a weapon, if not necessarily the desired one.
Witness England, where knife crime proceeds apace in a decidedly un-merrie fashion. This all happens on an island without powerful narco-cartels, mind you, which makes Mexico all the more troublesome if you use this model.
The problem, in the end, isn’t guns. It’s culture. In a country where narcoviolence is rampant and a career choice many choose to make, yet guns are exponentially harder to get, criminals still get guns and commit gun violence at a much higher rate than in the United States. American freedom can’t be the scapegoat for this — and by extension, neither can the guns.
Either way, it’s evidence that even if America had one gun store like Mexico, it likely wouldn’t have an effect on gun crime. What it would do is take guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens and put them in the hands of individuals with no intention of obeying the law. That’s something we desperately need to take away.
Take it from Hugo Gallegos Sanchez, a 32-year-old policeman in Mexico City and gun-buyer quoted for Linthicum’s story.
“You need protection,” he said.
Yes, and Mexico makes it a lot harder for him — and others — to get it.
UPDATE: The Western Journal should have noted in this article that the claim made by economist John Lott in a tweet about the caliber of weapons available to Mexican citizens does not appear to be accurate. According to Wikipedia, Mexican citizens can legally purchase weapons in calibers other than .22. Since we included that tweet because of its description of the gun store as being run by the Mexican military and not because of the information regarding available calibers, we did not fact check that information until an astute reader called it into question. We then issued this update, about 24 hours after publication of the original article, and apologize for any confusion the language of Lott’s tweet might have caused.
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