Shotgun News, May 1, 2009, pp. 26-28

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Poor Mexico: So Far From God, And So Close to the United States”1

The title of this article is from Porfirio Diaz, President of Mexico for many years, through many corrupt elections. The history of interactions between Mexico and the United States has a bit to be ashamed of, I would agree. However, I would argue that Mexico’s problems at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries had more to do with Mexico’s proximity to Porfirio Diaz than the United States.

Once again, proximity to the United States is being blamed for Mexico’s problems, rather than asking if the problem lies a bit closer to home. As you are no doubt aware, on February 25, 2009, Attorney General Eric Holder gave a speech in which he argued for a new, permanent federal assault weapons ban—for the benefit of Mexico! His claim was that Mexico’s increasingly severe problems with the drug cartels is because of weapons smuggling from the United States. Holder’s proposal, however, was for a ban on sales—much more severe than the previous law, which simply prohibited new manufacture.2

Mexico does have a serious problem right now, no question. The drug cartels that fight over control of the cocaine trade into the United States are monsters, beheading soldiers and policemen. The Mexican government deployed 7500 soldiers and 2500 heavily armed federal police to Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Texas, to try to and bring the chaos under control. And no wonder: the drug cartels were murdering about 15 people per day earlier this year in Juarez.3 Mass graves keep getting unearthed, where the bodies show signs of torture.4

There is a serious violence problem, and there’s no question that at least some of the weapons being used by the drug cartels come from the United States. But to my pleasure and surprise, even mainstream media are admitting that many of the weapons that have allowed the drug cartels to terrorize Mexican police departments aren’t coming from the United States. A recent Los Angeles Times article pointed out that the increasingly deadly attacks involve machine guns, hand grenades, rocket launchers, and antitank weapons—and that these weapons aren’t being bought in American gun stores or at gun shows. “Most of these weapons are being smuggled from Central American countries or by sea, eluding U.S. and Mexican monitors who are focused on the smuggling of semiautomatic and conventional weapons purchased from dealers in the U.S. border states of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.”5

There are civilian weapons being bought in the United States and smuggled south, and I would expect that some of these weapons are probably ending up in the hands of criminals. But Mexico has very restrictive gun control laws, and I would not be surprised if some of these guns are ending up in the hands of the victims. A recent article in the Houston Chronicle tells of how farming villages in some parts of Mexico are making moats in the hope of reducing the number of entry points for the drug cartels, who drive in and kidnap people quite brazenly. As one of the villagers explained, “We have a few shotguns, some .22 rifles, a few pistols — nothing compared to what they have.”6 I fear that efforts to stop the smuggling of weapons south will disproportionately disarm the victims—not the drug cartels.

Mexico is upset that guns are being smuggled south. The United States has a problem with drugs and illegal aliens being smuggled north. If there were fewer drugs going north, there would be less money available to the drug cartels. This would reduce the number of guns they could buy from the United States, and the serious military weapons that they buy elsewhere. It would make it harder for them to buy corrupt Mexican politicians and policemen. And they wouldn’t have the money to buy submarines for their drug smuggling operations!7

So here’s the deal: instead of asking Americans to give up their Second Amendment rights, wouldn’t it make more sense for both governments to create a genuine border between our two countries? Mexico could work on preventing the flow of guns south; we could work on preventing the flow of illegal aliens and drugs north. Inevitably, both sides would end up helping the other. Our Border Patrol, in looking for movement north, is probably going to stop some movement south. If the Mexican government tries to prevent smuggling going south, one would hope that they would arrest at least some of those smuggling drugs north.

Of course, this assumes that Attorney General Holder’s goal for an assault weapons law is to help Mexico. It pretty clearly is not. Significant factions of the Democratic Party want restrictive gun control laws, not for the benefit of Mexico, but for the benefit of the United States. Don’t be too cynical, and assume that “for the benefit of the United States” was sarcasm. While many of the politicians probably know that restrictive gun control doesn’t work, and some of the gun control activists may have darker motives, many of our opponents honestly believe that restrictive gun control laws can make America a safe and happy place.

In some cases, these people simply have not examined the statistical evidence that shows what a failure gun control has been. Some of them simply have not thought through the results of such laws. A fair number have beliefs about the nature of gun violence that are simply not grounded in reality. For example, many gun control activists believe that most gun murders are done by ordinary law-abiding people who suddenly lose their temper, and commit a murder with a gun that is readily at hand. While there are such cases—and they get enormous press coverage when they happen—these are very much the exception.

Amazingly enough, even many Democrats in Congress, including some of our historical enemies, have told Obama that his assault weapons ban is dead on arrival. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has never been our friend. She has been a consistent supporter of restrictive gun control throughout her political career. But when Holder announced the Obama Administration’s plans for a new assault weapons ban, Pelosi’s response was clear: “On that score, I think we need to enforce the laws we have right now.”8

Enforce existing gun control laws instead of making new ones? Did you ever expect to hear one of the most liberal members of Congress use that line? The reason is simple enough: Pelosi, like most Democrats in Congress, knows what happened the last time that Democrats used their control of Congress and the White House to pass an assault weapons ban: they lost control of both houses of Congress. Pelosi enjoys flying around in a government-owned Gulfstream V, and whines awfully when she has fly in a more conventional military jet.9 She won’t get those toys, and her son won’t get high paying jobs that don’t require him to actually work, if she ceases to be Speaker of the House.10

Let’s not get complacent. There are all sorts of ways for the Obama Administration to make life difficult for gun owners without actually passing laws. As you are aware, there are severe gun and ammunition shortages throughout the United States right now. Some of this is because the U.S. military is consuming lots of ammunition right now; we are at war. (Although you are forgiven for having forgotten that—the mainstream media lost interest in Iraq once it became apparent that we were approaching victory there.) But the shortages have intensified since Obama’s election, as Americans are stockpiling battle rifles and ammunition at rates that probably make Obama nervous.11

Adding to the problem, the Defense Logistics Agency, which is responsible for selling surplus military materials, suddenly required all fired brass to be mutilated as a condition of sale—dramatically reducing its sale price, and making it unusable for remanufacturing. Within an hour of Montana’s Congressional delegation faxing a request for this to be reversed—it was.12 Perhaps it was just a bureaucratic screwup that caused DLA to adopt this mutilation rule. But in light of the Obama Administration’s well-known desire to disarm the population, I am just a bit skeptical that this was an accident.

We need to keep the pressure on members of Congress—especially Democrats who could be pressured to “go along” with the rest of their party. Make it very clear that disarming Americans for the benefit of Mexico makes no sense.

Clayton E. Cramer is a software engineer and historian. His sixth book, Armed America: The Remarkable Story of How and Why Guns Became as American as Apple Pie (Nelson Current, 2006), is available in bookstores. His web site is

1 Peter Standish and Peter M. Bell, Culture and Customs of Mexico (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2004), 2.

2 Jason Ryan, “Obama to Seek New Assault Weapons Ban,” ABC News, February 25, 2009,, last accessed March 24, 2009.

3 Julian Cardona, “Mexico says troops cut drug deaths in border city,” Reuters, March 23, 2009,, last accessed March 24, 2009.

4 Diana Washington Valdez, “Latest secret grave one of many around Juarez, bodies show signs of torture,” El Paso Times, March 23, 2009,, last accessed March 24, 2009.

5 Ken Ellingwood and Tracy Wilkinson, “Drug cartels' new weaponry means war,” Los Angeles Times, March 15, 2009,,0,229992.story, last accessed March 24, 2009.

6 Dudley Althaus, “Rural Mexican villages dig moats to repel gangsters,” Houston Chronicle, March 22, 2009,, last accessed March 24, 2009.

7 Jason Beaubien, “Violence Continues As Drug Wars Rage In Mexico,” National Public Radio, March 23, 2009,, last accessed March 24, 2009.

8 Sam Youngman, “Cabinet picks throw wrench into message,” The Hill, March 2, 2009,, last accessed March 24, 2009.

9 Geoff Earle, “Revealed: Pelosi’s ‘Air Rage’,” New York Post, March 11, 2009,, last accessed March 24, 2009.

10 Owen Thomas, “Paul Pelosi, Jr., the fresh green prince of San Francisco,” Valley Wag, December 19, 2008,, last accessed March 24, 2009.

11 David Reynolds, “Gun buyers load up on ammo in post-election frenzy,” Wilmington (N.C.) Star-News, March 23, 2009,, last accessed March 24, 2009; Laura Norton, “Ammunition in short supply,” Santa Rosa (Cal.) Press-Democrat, March 14, 2009,, last accessed March 24, 2009; Amy Sienicki, “Gun stores say staggering demand creating ammo shortage,” KDRV-TV (Medford, Ore.), March 18, 2009,, last accessed March 24, 2009; Tim Potter, “Gun sellers can't keep up with demand for ammo,” Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, March 17, 2009,, last accessed March 24, 2009; Tyler Lopez, “Ammo Flying Off Shelves,” ABC Channel 7 News (Denver, Colo.), March 23, 2009,, last accessed March 24, 2009.

12 Michael Babcock, “Gun industries tout delegation's work to reverse decision on spent ammo,” Great Falls (Mont.) Tribune, March 20, 2009,, last accessed March 24, 2009.