The U.S.'s War on Drugs and Violence in Mexico

October 02, 2012

Stephan Lefebvre

The full Department of Justice Inspector General (DOJ/IG) report from the ‘Fast and Furious’ disaster was released on the 19th of September.  Coming on the heels of the Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity, which ended its month-long campaign around the United States last a week earlier, it is timely to think about several present-day realities: the paralysis afflicting policy makers around the topic of gun control, the Obama administration’s doubling down on Drug War policies, and the ongoing violence that affects people in Mexico, the U.S. and many communities in Central and South America.

Our government plays a crucial role in facilitating gun violence in Mexico (as well as throughout the region and in the U.S. itself), both by refusing to push for sensible gun control laws and by failing to enforce the laws already in place.  Between the calendar years 2007 and 2011, almost 70% of the 99,000 firearms that were recovered in Mexico and submitted to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) were U.S.-sourced.  U.S.-sourced here means that the firearms were manufactured in the U.S. or they were legally imported into the U.S. under the auspices of a federal firearms licensee (FFL). 

These numbers are likely to be very low estimates, as they only count guns successfully confiscated and turned over to the ATF for tracking, and they indicate that the U.S. is a huge part of the problem.  Rather than engaging in a serious review of current drug policy, the Obama Administration has focused on defending itself against allegations surrounding the “Fast and Furious” scandal, contributing to the paralysis that we have been seeing with policy makers around the issue of gun control, and even today this Administration continues to express enthusiasm for the War on Drugs in its current form.

When it comes to sensible gun control laws, it is clear that new laws are needed.  Here is another excerpt from the DOJ/IG report:

It is legal for a non-prohibited individual in Arizona to purchase an unlimited number of firearms from an FFL at any time. It is also legal for a non-prohibited person to pay for firearms in cash and to then transfer, sell, or barter those firearms to a non-prohibited third party.  (pp. 139-140)

It seems to me that ‘unlimited number of firearms’ is precisely what the movement towards sensible gun laws is trying to fight against—and if you have any doubt,  consider that the 5 individuals in the Fast and Furious case purchased over 100 guns each, and the one with the most purchases bought 723 weapons!

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