Foreign minister of Mexico calls for a new U.S. “assault weapons” ban

Claudia Ruiz Massieu, foreign minister of Mexico, called at the Second Conference of States Parties to the Arms Trade Treaty of the UN for the U.S. Congress to pass a new ban on firearms that she labels “assault weapons,” saying that “they cause harm on both sides of the border.”  In her view, guns that are illegal in Mexico are being bought in the border areas of the United States and smuggled in to her country and stopping this flow of guns is a high priority there.

The question about the origin of illegal guns in Mexico isn’t as simple as the country’s foreign minister or U.S. politicians claim.  Barack Obama, for example, has told us that ninety percent of crime guns recovered in our neighbor to the south come from this country.  However, that number is better for headlines than for an analyzed case in favor of a new set of bans.  The ninety percent is of guns that Mexico submitted for tracing.  Of the guns that the Mexican government seizes, only something between a quarter and a third are sent to us for checking.

The situation is even worse for advocates of gun control, since a lot of guns, ammunition, and grenades are being acquired from foreign militaries—or from the Mexican military and police—whether stolen or purchased from corrupt officials.  This includes rocket-propelled grenades and M60 machine guns.  Three small arms popular with the cartels are the AK-47 and the Fabrique Nationale P90 and Five-seven, all of which are manufactured primarily in countries other than the United States, and in the case of full-auto carbines and submachine guns, are not available to many here.

In addition to the facts that Ruiz Massieu leaves out about the sources of guns in Mexico, she also fails to mention the flow of drugs either from or through her country into the United States.  Mexico is the largest supplier of methamphetamines and a major producer of heroin used by addicts in this country.  This is exacerbated by corruption in Mexican law enforcement and by a denial of self-defense rights to ordinary Mexicans.

I can understand the desire of Ruiz Massieu and others to find a solution to the violence in her country.  The homicide rate there was the fifteenth highest in the world in 2014, 27.14 per hundred thousand.  This is a murder rate that’s some five times ours, and in many Mexican states, effectively a civil war among drug cartels and government forces exists.

But as much empathy as I feel for the problems south of our border, at the same time, when I’m told that my nation must curtail rights to cure another country’s ills, I become much less caring.  Are we partially responsible for what’s going on there?  Yes.  The United States contributes to the crime in Mexico through our drug laws, laws that ban substances in demand here.  Legalizing drugs would remove the black market premium, cutting profits for the cartels, and would offer us a better means of promoting treatment.  But in any case, when the Mexican government finds it impossible to prevent the smuggling of drugs, it’s hypocritical for them to insist that we try to ban something else.

Governments of the world would do well to respect the rights of the citizens from whom they derive their powers.  Efforts at controlling private behavior have proved to fail without excesses of force, and this call for a new “assault weapons” ban is yet another repetition of what doesn’t and can’t work.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of

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