By Clay Boggs
On March 7, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed a bill to crack down on straw purchasing and gun trafficking. The Stop Illegal Firearms Trafficking Act of 2013 was sponsored by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-Ny.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.). The bill merges earlier legislation introduced by Senators Gillibrand and Kirk with a separate bill introduced by Senators Leahy and Durbin.
By making it a crime to purchase a gun with the intention to transfer it to another person, this bipartisan legislation would help keep guns out of the hands of dangerous criminals in the United States. A provision in the bill also makes it a crime to smuggle firearms out of the United States, which would help keep guns out of the hands of dangerous criminals in Mexico.
Since 2006, more than 60,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence in Mexico. Cross-border gun trafficking has played an important role in fueling this violence: 70 percent of the guns recovered in Mexico and submitted for tracing between 2007 and 2011 came from the United States.
Mexican civil society and the Mexican government have repeatedly asked the United States to address the problem of illegal gun trafficking. In 2012, then-President Felipe Calderón placed a billboard on the U.S. border that said “no more weapons!” Calderón’s ambassador, Arturo Sarukhán, said at a Capitol Hill forum that illegal gun trafficking was contributing to the drug-related violence in Mexico. Mexican NGOs, public intellectuals, and leaders in the arts have all spoken out about the need to end illegal gun trafficking, and the Mexican peace movement, which is led by victims of drug-related violence in Mexico, has also called for an end to the deadly flow of weapons across the U.S.-Mexico border.
The United States and Mexico have a shared problem of gun violence. The same laws that will help keep guns out of the hands of violent criminals in the United States will also make a big difference across the border. Congress should not miss this opportunity.
Clay Boggs is WOLA’s Program Officer for Cuba and Rights and Development.