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Border Report: Why Mexico’s Taking Aim at U.S. Gun Manufacturers

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If someone is shot in Mexico, odds are the gun came from the United States.

Somewhere between 70 and 90 percent of firearms found in Mexican crime scenes are traced back north of the border [1], according to a February report from the United States Government Accountability Office.

A study released by the Mexican government last year also found that about 2.5 million firearms were illicitly trafficked southbound across the border in the last 10 years.

So it isn’t particularly surprising that the Mexican government is now suing [2] several American gun manufacturers, the Washington Post reports.

The lawsuit claims that manufacturers’ lax controls and marketing contribute to the illegal flow of guns into Mexico – the same guns that have facilitated rising homicide rates throughout the country.

The complaint says some of these companies “design, market, distribute and sell guns in a way they know routinely arm the drug cartels in Mexico.”

The lawsuit specifically calls out Colt’s Manufacturing Company over its .38-caliber gold-plated Emiliano Zapata 1911 pistol, which has the phrase “It’s better to die standing than to live on your knees” engraved on it. That is the same type of weapon used to murder Mexican investigative journalist Miroslava Breach in 2017, according to the lawsuit.

Other manufacturers named in the suit include Smith & Wesson Brands, Beretta USA and Glock.

A Deeper Dive Into Southbound Gun Trafficking

Southbound gun trafficking isn’t reported on as much as northbound drug or human smuggling.

But that isn’t to say there is no reporting on the subject. In fact, Mexico-based British journalist Ioan Grillo published a book on the topic earlier this year.

I cannot recommend it enough – especially given the recent lawsuit.

The book, “Blood Gun Money: How America Arms Gangs and Cartels [3],” takes readers on an international journey from Soviet-era gun factories in Eastern Europe to gun shows in Dallas and mass graves in Sinaloa.

Grillo dives into all of the factors of American gun violence – the Second Amendment, gun laws, the gun lobby’s influence, the fact that the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms is legally barred from using computers to trace guns or gun owners – but frames it within the context of bloodshed in Mexico.

For example, the book notes that cartels started using more AK-47s and AR-15s after the assault weapons ban expired in the United States 2004.

The book also shows how easy it is for a young man in Juarez to drive to a gun show in Dallas and buy guns without an ID and then take the guns south of the border. This is what is known as the “gun show loophole” – while licensed gun dealers are required to conduct background checks and ask for ID, private sellers are not. It isn’t hard to find private sellers.

This is an excerpt from Grillo’s book:

Buyer: Hi, how are you? Is that the cash price for the AR-15?

Seller: Yep, no tax or paperwork.

Buyer: So cash is all I need?

Seller: Yup.

Buyer: So what about ID?

Seller: You don’t need ID on private sales.

It’s worth noting that private sellers cannot do this in California. State laws require consumers to go through a background check and waiting period even when buying from private sellers.

There’s a San Diego Gun Trafficking Angle, Too

Because of relatively lax laws, most of the guns found in Mexico were legally bought in Texas rather than California.

But even with tougher laws, gun trafficking is a problem in the Golden State.

Back in March, a former San Diego County sheriff’s captain who used his law enforcement ID to run a gun smuggling business [4] was sentenced to two years in federal prison, the Associated Press reported.

Marco Garmo pleaded guilty to acting as an unlicensed firearm dealer, buying almost 150 weapons and reselling nearly 100 over a period of roughly six years. One of Garmo’s tactics was “straw purchases” where he legally bought guns for people who could not because law enforcement officers are exempt from state laws limiting certain types of firearms.

Another common smuggling strategy is using “ghost guns,” which are guns without a traceable serial number. They are often assembled from various gun parts.

The San Diego City Council last week approved a ban on sale and possession [5] of gun frames and firearms that don’t have a serial number, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

As of July 28, the San Diego Police Department had recovered 255 ghost guns so far this year. The 2020 total was 211, according to the Union-Tribune.

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