On January 24, 2013, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced the “Assault Weapons Ban of 2013.” WOLA sent the following letter to Senator Feinstein’s office on January 17, 2013, in anticipation of the bill’s introduction. The bill was co-sponsored by senators Charles Schumer (D-NY), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Carl Levin (D-MI), John Rockefeller (D-WV), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Tom Carper (D-DE), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).
January 17, 2013
Senator Dianne Feinstein
331 Hart Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear Senator Feinstein,
The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) is a DC-based human rights organization that focuses on the relationship between public policies and human rights. In particular, we advocate for U.S. government policies that will have a positive effect on human rights, democracy, and social justice in Latin America. Our work supports the thousands of victims of violence in Mexico, many at the hands of guns that originated in the United States. We believe that the Assault Weapons Regulatory Act of 2013 would help address gun violence in the United States and across the border in Mexico.
Since 2006, drug-related violence in Mexico has risen dramatically. Estimates vary widely, but as many as 60,000 people have been killed. Thousands have been disappeared; reports of torture and arbitrary detention have become increasingly common. Recognizing that safety and freedom from violence are human rights, WOLA has advocated for comprehensive solutions to violence in Mexico, including judicial reform, police reform, and increased support for civil society and human rights defenders.
The causes of violence in Mexico are complex, but the availability of inexpensive and deadly firearms along the U.S. border plays an important role. Seventy percent of firearms recovered in Mexico and submitted for tracing come from the United States; 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 criminal organizations. Gun violence is a shared problem, and it demands shared solutions.
We believe that the Assault Weapons Regulatory Act of 2013 is part of the solution to both violence in Mexico and violence in the United States. Several studies have credited the Assault Weapons Ban with helping to reduce violence in the United States between 1994 and 2004, and two recent academic papers have linked the expiration of the original Assault Weapons Ban in 2004 to a subsequent rise in violence in Mexico. There is no easy solution to the problem of violence, whether in Mexico or the United States, but this legislation is a step in the right direction.
Executive Director, WOLA
*Note: The final name of the bill was the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013, not the Assault Weapons Regulatory Act of 2013.