By Dieter Lehmann
The United States Government has repeatedly been blamed, and rightly so, for its lax gun control laws. Arms traffickers, more often than not working for drug cartels within Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America, have taken advantage of this atmosphere, and many illegal firearms have consequently made their way across the U.S.-Mexico border with impunity. Operation: Fast and Furious, the controversial ATF operation that came to light in 2009 after a Border Patrol agent perished, helped bring some light to this volatile situation.
Unfortunately for all of us, we live in a very reactionary society. We are a society that is only prompted to fix its ills when an event takes place that hits close to home. Gun control is the best example of this. Whenever news breaks of a new shooting at a school or movie theatre, a firestorm over gun control erupts. Suddenly, every news outlet is seeking out the NRA for comment and concerned citizens are flooding the phone lines of their local congressman asking them to push for tighter gun control. Once the media finds a new story, or Washington passes some small-scale piece of legislation, everyone returns to his or her program in progress and life goes on until the next awful shooting. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
However, the media firestorm and gun control debate has continued to rage on since the horrendous shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut a month ago. This could be interpreted as a good thing since it could be a sign that our society and the United States government has decided to take substantial and progressive steps in tightening gun control. Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York on Thursday passed the NY SAFE ACT, which is the first piece of gun-control legislation passed nationwide since the shooting. Its thirteen provisions are the toughest in the country. President Barack Obama today did Cuomo one better and unveiled the most sweeping effort at gun control policy reform in a generation. It was the product of a month-long review process spearheaded by Vice President Joe Biden who presented his findings and recommendations to Obama.
Like I mentioned above, American citizens only tend to demand action on gun control when something so shocking, so deplorable takes place close to home that to not act itself would be criminal. Events like these happen more frequently in the United States’ southern neighbor, but as is consistent with American foreign policy, Americans like to turn a blind eye to the consequences of their own actions unless, of course, it involves fellow Americans like Border Patrol agent Brian Terry.
But this article isn’t about Brian Terry or the shooting at Sandy Hook. This is about how concerned Mexican citizens are taking advantage of this gun control fervor to demand that the United States tightens its gun control policies and stems the flow of illegal weapons. It is also this ease of accessibility for arms traffickers in Mexico that is ultimately murdering innocent people and fueling drug violence in the country.
Yesterday, Mexican poet and anti-violence activist Javier Sicilia handed the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City a petition addressed to President Barack Obama calling for increased gun regulation and blaming the arms and weapons obtained in the United States for a majority of drug violence-related deaths. A total of 54,588 Mexicans signed the letter in a national campaign, received by an official at the embassy, which also made mention of the Sandy Hook shooting by stating, “as grandparents and parents, we were moved and deeply angered by the killing of innocent children in Newtown.”
Javier Sicilia, and academic Sergio Aguayo who co-authored the letter, call for an assault weapons ban on new weapons that have become popular among drug traffickers as they say this would reduce the accessibility of these arms to drug cartels. Furthermore, they proposed the expansion of the mandate that tracks the sales of assault weapons in border areas as drug cartels expand further away from this region and better analysis of weapons left behind by arms traffickers. Sicilia and Aguayo say this will allow the ATF to identify arms sellers in the United States that do business with the drug cartels, reduce arms trafficking across the U.S.-Mexico border, and lower the influx of assault weapons flowing into Mexico.
As a Mexican citizen and a resident of Tucson, Arizona during the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and others, to me these steps are logical, and it would be common sense to implement them. The steps Governor Cuomo and President Obama have taken to tighten gun control in the last couple days are a start, but it is too early to determine what impact this legislation will have on arms trafficking into Mexico and the drug violence there. Mass shootings akin to the one in Aurora happen more often in Mexico and are sometimes far worse. Next time you grab your rifle and head to your local NRA meeting, think about this: what if Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold had used weapons obtained in Mexico? How do you think Americans would have reacted?
This post reflects the author’s personal opinions, not the opinions of Arizona Model United Nations.