WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
14 Jan 2013 | News

Impact of Lax U.S. Gun Laws Does Not Stop at the Border

Press Release

Washington, D.C.—Today the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) delivered a bi-national petition to the White House calling on the Obama administration to take tough executive action to tighten U.S. laws to prevent international gun trafficking. The petition, which was initiated by more than a dozen human rights and anti-gun violence groups, was delivered to Vice-President Biden’s task force on gun violence.

“We can’t forget about Mexico—the vast majority of the guns fueling drug-related violence across the border come from the United States,” said Joy Olson, WOLA’s Executive Director. “We are urging Vice-President Biden’s task force to recommend immediate steps to halt gun-trafficking.”

According the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), 70 percent of the guns seized and subject to tracing in Mexico in the past three years are of U.S. origin. Many of these guns are purchased at gun shops in the United States by straw purchasers with a clean record, who then resell them to criminal arms traffickers. Others are bought at U.S. gun shows where guns can be bought and sold without background checks.

The fact that over 60,000 people—many of them innocent children, women, and civilians—have lost their lives to drug-related violence in Mexico in the past 6 years has lead activists on both sides of the border to mount a campaign for action by the Obama administration.

Steps that the administration could take right away include:

1) Enforce the existing ban on the importation of foreign-made assault rifles, and include FN Five-seven handguns and new AK-type pistols, which are very rapidly becoming “weapons of choice” of gun traffickers because they combine the firepower of a rifle with the concealability of a handgun. Impact: this measure would reduce Mexican criminal organizations’ access to most of the inexpensive imported assault weapons and other military-style firearms (such as .50 caliber anti-armor sniper rifles) that are frequently trafficked from the United States to Mexico.

2) Expand the reporting rule for assault weapons that is currently in effect for border states. Federal prosecutions suggest traffickers are expanding their operations to other states further from the border.  In addition to border states, Florida, Colorado, and Oklahoma have been particularly significant sources of firearms illegally trafficked to Mexico.

3) Enhance scrutiny of gun traces and other available information, including firearms identified in prosecutions and in the Suspect Gun Database, to help identify firearms dealers supplying traffickers.  Impact: these two measures would enable the ATF to more effectively identify firearms dealers that are knowingly selling to criminal organizations and to more effectively disrupt cross-border firearms trafficking. This could reduce the number of assault weapons and other military-style firearms illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.

In addition, WOLA has called for a bi-national commission that would work on both sides of the border to staunch gun trafficking.

The same military-style assault weapons that have been used in massacres here in the United States are being bought in this country and illegally trafficked across the border into the hands of vicious drug lords,” said Olson. “These Administration actions and additional Congressional legislation to tighten U.S. gun laws are needed to address gun violence on both sides of the border.”

The petition was sponsored by a coalition of organization, including Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Violence Policy Center, Cuéntame, Propuesta Cívica, Latin America Working Group, Global Exchange, Alianza Cívica, and the Mexican Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity, and it has been signed by close to 55,000 people in the United States and Mexico.

Kristel Mucino
Communications Director
[email protected]