WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
5 Jan 2016 | News

President Obama’s Executive Actions Limit Gun Trafficking Loopholes

Washington, D.C.—Today, President Barack Obama has signed new executive actions that will boost enforcement of existing gun laws and make it harder for illegal traffickers to avoid background checks by obtaining guns online or at gun shows.

Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) Executive Director Joy Olson will be attending the White House ceremony today in which the new measures will be announced.

“Stopping violence is not someone else’s problem. We all need to act to change what is in our purview to change. That is what Obama did today,” said Olson.

The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) has long monitored U.S. gun policy, working to develop proposals to restrict arms trafficking to Mexico from the United States. In recent years Mexico has seen a wave of drug-related violence, and more than 180,000 homicides since 2007. Lax gun laws in the United States, which allow firearms to flow easily acrossthe border, have significantly contributed to this death toll.

As WOLA noted in a July 2015 report, weapons initially imported to the United States account for a major part of the arsenals of Mexico’s drug cartels. Approximately 70 percent of the guns recovered in Mexico and submitted for tracing were found to have been trafficked from the United States.

“It’s about time that something was done to expand background checks for arms sales. For too long we have been facing a gun crisis in this country, and the response has been to do nothing even when the implications of illegal trafficking and sales have spilled into Mexico. Hopefully this action will inspire the wider reforms we need on the issue,” said Olson.

The new executive actions will require anyone “engaged in the business” of selling firearms to obtain a license to do so, as well as to conduct more efficient and effective background checks. They are an important contribution to the fight against illicit arms trafficking and will tighten loopholes that criminal groups have long used to buy U.S. guns in bulk while circumventing background checks.

More action is needed. Permanently closing existing loopholes and promoting a broader expansion of background checks, which polls show is supported by 88 percent of Americans, will require Congress to act.

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. While today’s measures won’t solve the problem, they are a step toward sanity. But until Congress passes the kinds of reforms supported by a majority of the American people, the potential for abuse of U.S. gun laws will remain. We all need to step up to ensure guns don’t end up in the wrong hands at home and abroad,” said Olson.


Kristel Mucino
Communications Director, WOLA
(202) 797-2171