The Great Debate

American guns and the war next door

By Bernd Debusmann
December 18, 2008

Bernd Debusmann - Great Debate– Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. –

Last year, around 2,500 Mexicans died in the twin wars drug cartels are waging against each other and against the Mexican state, using weapons smuggled in from the United States. In the first 11 months of this year, the death toll was 5,367, according to the Mexican attorney general. Next year?

There is no end in sight. At least two of the lethal ingredients in the toxic brew that fuels Mexico’s ever-widening violence are unlikely to change: lax American gun laws and a Mexican border that barely controls north-south traffic. On many of the crossing points along the 2,000-mile frontier, travelers coming in from the United States, by car or on foot, are routinely waved through without even having to show identity papers.

Weak Mexican border controls rarely feature in official or academic reports on a problem that has prompted some experts and U.S. publications to wonder whether Mexico is a “failing state”. That’s the headline over a cover story on Mexico in the latest edition of the business magazine Forbes. Mexican officials reject the label.

But privately, they concede that Mexican authorities are doing a less-than-thorough job in searching and monitoring north-south traffic. They tend to point in the other direction, to the easy availability of guns in the United States, the armory of Mexico’s criminal mafias.

According to statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), the agency charged with regulating the firearms industries, there are 9,161 licensed arms dealers in the four states bordering Mexico — California, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. Buyers from licensed establishments need to go through a background check and the serial numbers of their purchases can be traced.

No background checks and no paperwork is necessary for weapons traded between private citizens on the “secondary” market — gun shows, over the Internet, through classified advertisements. Around 40 percent of all gun sales in the United States, where private citizens own at least 200 million guns, are on the informal market, estimates the Violence Policy Center, a Washington-based group in favor of tougher gun controls.

How many guns are smuggled across the porous border? Nobody knows, and a frequently used figure of 2,000 every day appears to be more of an urban legend than an estimate based on evidence. It would amount to 730,000 smuggled guns a year.

Whatever the number, it is enough for the U.S. State Department, on its website, to advise citizens contemplating a visit to Mexico that “recent Mexican army and police confrontations with drug cartels have taken on the characteristics of small-unit combat, with cartels employing automatic weapons and, on occasion, grenades”.


Almost all the weapons seized inside Mexico or left at the scene of shootouts have been traced back to the United States through eTrace, an electronic system the ATF set up to trace illicit firearms. The cartel killers’ weapons of choice: AK-47 and AR-15 assault rifles. Favorite pistols: Colt .38 Super, Glock 9 millimeter, and the FN 5-7, nicknamed “cop killer” because it can pierce a flak jacket at a range of 300 meters.

All these can be legally (and easily) acquired in the United States by citizens and legal residents without a criminal record, after a background check with the Federal Bureau of Investigations that often takes less than 15 minutes. The ease with which Americans can get arms flares into public controversy at regular intervals, usually after a gun owner with a grudge commits a massacre in a school or other public place.

Attempts to introduce more restrictions have failed regularly, and this year the Supreme Court ended decades of legal argument by ruling that the second amendment of the U.S. constitution, written 219 years ago, does guarantee an individual’s right “to keep and bear arms”.

Even Eduardo Medina Mora, the outspoken Mexican attorney general who makes no secret of his frustration with the flow of weapons from the north, seems resigned to the prospect that the United States will not change its gun laws to keep Mexico from sliding into deeper trouble.

“Although … it may seem absurd to us that a (U.S.) citizen can buy an AK-47, an AR-15, or a Barrett .50, it’s the law of the land,” he told the Spanish newspaper El Pais in November. The last item on his list is a sniper rifle that costs $8,650, weighs 30 pounds and can punch through an armored vehicle from a mile away.

On the U.S. side of the border, the ATF has just launched an advertising campaign in Arizona to remind citizens that buying guns on behalf of others — so called-straw purchases — carries penalties of up to 10 years in jail. Using straw buyers has been one of the cartels’ methods to evade background checks. Gun shows are another.

Just before entering Mexico, large signs at crossing points read: “Warning: Firearms and Ammunition Illegal in Mexico.” Chances that you are stopped and searched by Mexican officials are slim.

Reuters correspondent Tim Gaynor, author of a forthcoming book on the frontier (Midnight on the Line: The Secret Life of the U.S.-Mexico Border) reports: “In scores of crossings I have made to Mexico over several years, I have been stopped on just two or three occasions. Never once have I had my car searched. The odds are heavily in favor of the smugglers.”

Time for Mexico to start watching its border rather than pointing a finger at the United States?

You can contact the author at Debusmann@reuters.com. For previous columns by Bernd Debusmann, click here.

202 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

More gun control; More crime. All law abiding citizens should be armed!

Posted by Roy | Report as abusive

Sure. Why not? Watching borders definitely better than finger pointing.

Let’s assume Mexico does as adequate a job watching the border as the US would do. . . what would happen? Drug Cartels quit the business for lack of fire power? If there were no high powered sophisticated guns there would be no cartels, right? Mobsters in America during the thirties had it so rough. No glocks, AK-47s or Barrett .50s. It’s a wonder the mafia survived in America.

Perhaps a combination of the analyses behind *The Case for Piracy* *America’s decades old failed drug war* and this column are in order. If we combined all three would we still be talking about the border?


my kids all were required to take drug education courses. these should include background on all of the cartels and narco-violence worldwide.

Posted by ray | Report as abusive

Another misinforming article written by yet another misinformed author.

The F-N 5.7 by itself is no more effective against body armor then a Glock .22 (for example). Only specialized ammunition (which is essentially attainable only by law enforcement) can penetrate various levels of body armor.

The .38 Super is considered a competition round and is sold in such limited quantities that gangs cannot find ammunition for it…Your data is highly suspect.

The AR-15 and AK-47 are rifles. Nothing more, nothing less. The Ruger mini 14, Browning BAR are also rifles that accomplish the exact same thing…semi-automatic fire. That’s all…no fully automatic, armor-piercing, evil technology. These are all rifles that fully serve
legal hunters in America throughout the year.

Federal background checks have never taken “15 minutes”…I am an avid and legal gun owner. Even after repeated checks I must still wait for at least 1 week to purchase a firearm. It is frustrating, but if it helps to keep a gun out of the hands of the wrong person, so be it.

Again…blaming the tool, not the user. History has proven time and again stricter gun laws only decrease the law-abiding citizen the chance to rightfully defend himself. Under no circumstances will increased gun restrictions in the US decrease gun-related crime south of the border. Mexican gangs can and will continue to replenish their gun supply from Brazil, France and of course, China.

Is it a coincidence that Chicago and Wash DC, the 2 most gun-crime ridden cities in the country, also ban the right of the homeowner to defend himself/herself against that which the criminal obtains illegally? But wait, how is this possible? Handguns are banned in Wash DC? That automatically removes ALL guns from ALL hands, correct?

These idealistic gun control views are often found wanting when reality proves that as long as the demand exists, so will the supply.

Just imagine for one second that we ban ALL guns in the US. Honestly, what would the Mexican border look like then? I propose that once criminals realize we cannot defend our border, the border will disappear.
In fact I propose that guns and the mean and women with the ability to use them have kept the borders as they are for hundred of years.

Why does law enforcement carry a weapon? To defend himself and others against ILLEGAL weapons and their owners.
I also own my weapon to defend…I don’t have the same right as my neighborhood cop?

Posted by Dave532 | Report as abusive

Now we need to give up our constitutional rights to save Mexican bandits?

Search everybody if you want to, but don’t point fingers.

A little research would tell the author that a “flack vest” is something designed to stop shrapnal, as in mortar and Grenade rounds. As for regular body armor, AKA “bullet Proof Vest” An Arrow,a sharp stick, a knife, or any other pointed object, like a tire iron or barbeque fork will penetrate body armor. Throwing around terms like “Cop Killer” only serves to inflame otherwise sane people to make wrong headed ill-informed choices.

Posted by Tom Holiday | Report as abusive

I am a staunch supporter of the 2nd amendment. The D.C ban is overturned and the Chicago ban will soon follow. That is not the issue here. If I have read correctly, firearm sales are unreported at shows and to foreign nationals or cross border. I am sorry to report that arms and military equipment are the United States biggest export products. It has been that way for some time (balance of trade you know).Our government knows the destruction and human cost this business has wreaked around the world yet they still allow it. Maybe that is why so many in congress support excessive gun control here at home (maybe this is why so many abroad don’t like us too). This seems to me less an issue of personal liberties and more a matter of politicians ensuring the financial health of substantial campaign contributors (weapons manufacturers). No matter what the cost.

Posted by Anubis | Report as abusive

There is no doubt that Mexico is a country in trouble, not only because of the drug wars but also because of an ever-worsening crime situation. Kidnapping has developed into an industry, and common crime is everywhere. But it is an exxageration to speak of Mexico as a failing state, as Forbes did, and a few months ago Stratfor, a financial analysis company. The Mexican state is weak, but it is not failing.

What IS failing is an effort by the Mexican government to counter-act the very dark view many Americans have of their neighbor. Being called a failing state is bad enough but now a Columbia law professor, Philip Bobbit, has gone a step further in a recenet Washington Post article. This is what he said:

Mexico is potentially our Pakistan — a failing state on our border that can provide haven for our adversaries, at least some of whom will be privatized terrorists. Imagine a poorer, less-democratic Mexico; then imagine it harboring extortionists with a small arsenal of deliverable nuclear or biological weapons. This may be a long-term threat, but it requires immediate assistance and cooperation.”

Give me a break. Mexico is not Pakistan. What’s next? They will compare us to Somalia?

Posted by Maria Jose A. | Report as abusive

A few observations from someone who travels in Baja California:

The FULLY AUTOMATIC weapons used by the drug cartels, including hand grenades and rocket propelled grenades used against Mexican police, most certainly did NOT come from U.S. dealers. In my opinion, the most likely source is the drug cartels’ connections with FARC and Chavez’s “Bolivarian” revolution. The choice of Colt .38 Super mention is significant to me because this is the largest caliber LEGALLY available in Mexico to private citizens, indicating that those handguns were most likely obtained in Mexico. Colts smuggled in from the U.S. would most likely be larger caliber, since the .38 Super commands a premium in the U.S.

As far as I know, There are NO cases of a Barrett .50 being used in a crime, either in the U.S. or Mexico.

As the article points out, the Mexican law is very strict against illegal possession of either guns OR ammunition. There are American citizens serving prison time in Mexico for inadvertently bringing ammunition across the border. These facts are well known and well advertised to those crossing the border. While searches may be infrequent, the penalties are severe and unlike the American side, difficult to escape. Only the foolish would risk it.

In summary, there are certainly problems with the drug trade, but I suspect they have more to do with the massive market and opportunity for profit that America’s prohibition approach creates. Mexico also suffers from systemic corruption in its police force, although its Army forces are improving. To blame the drug violence on “lax” American gun laws and “lax” border enforcement is to misdirect attention from real sources, and take resources away from where they would do the most good.

Mexico and Mexicans need an economy that offers alternatives, and their law enforcement forces need the prestige and pay that provide a defense against the temptation of corruption. Fixing the problems the drug trade and its associated violence requires assisting Mexico in building and strengthening a functioning civil society, none of which will be done by focusing attention on American gun laws or lack of border searches.

Just my two cents.

Posted by Kevin | Report as abusive

The lead heads will always find a rationale for their absolutist interpretation of the 2nd Amendment. The NRA is the greatest thing to happen to the Mexican drug gangs; in fact they’re practically their armorer and facilitator. Collateral damage to others means nothing to the NRA and the lead heads. Pointing to DC and Chicago as two cities with large crime problems and gun control laws ignores many other factors that go into crime statistics; it also ignores an obvious measure of just how bad a place really is, its per capita gun deaths/year, which is quite high in places with loose gun laws like Houston and Miami, I believe higher than DC and Chicago. So look at all the facts, not just the ones you would like to pick and choose, and if you’re going to make an argument about correlation you’re being intellectually dishonest since causation is the issue.

Posted by jimbo | Report as abusive

I was born and raised in Mexico and all I can say is that the Mexican government needs to seriously consider introducing a law that allows law abiding citizens the right to bear arms. Why should the criminals and the corrupt/scared police the only ones with the weapons? Since the police is already doing a lousy job of protecting the population, citizens should be allowed to protect themselves. The only thing I agree with this article is that Mexico is quickly becoming a failed state.

According to the organization, Fund for Peace, a failed state is one with a central government so weak or ineffective that it has little practical control over much of its territory; non-provision of public services; widespread corruption and criminality; refugees and involuntary movement of populations; and sharp economic decline.

Why else would most of the populations be fleeing to the US? No jobs, no protection, no safety, no education, NO FUTURE!!

Posted by Nora H. | Report as abusive

I hope people read what most of us in here seem to agree on… The 2nd ammendment. To me this is just another attempt at suggesting we give our rights up as American Citizens so either the “bad” guys or maybe, even worse soccialist ideas and ways win…No way I say, you can not have my guns. I will vote to ensure my right to bear Arms. If they take our right to vote away (soccialism) then I may have act…Hopefully we all will.

Posted by Larry | Report as abusive

DRUG cartels, DRUG related crime, DRUG war ($40b/yr wasted)… None of this would be happening if the drugs were legal. Have governments control them, sell them and tax them. Save money and lives.

Posted by Solomon | Report as abusive

Should I be embarrassed that I felt more emotion thinking “that sounds fun!” when reading the statement about the sniper rifle than at any other point in this article?

Posted by Sean | Report as abusive

“It is obvious that not until the people are educated, not until public opinion is rightly focused, not until government officials, even minor ones, are free from even the least remnant of corruption, can the country be properly administered. Not until discipline, order and good government reach the degree where an individual, even if he should put forth his utmost efforts to do so, would still find himself unable to deviate by so much as a hair’s breadth from righteousness, can the desired reforms be regarded as fully established.”
“Furthermore, any agency whatever, though it be the instrument of mankind’s greatest good, is capable of misuse. Its proper use or abuse depends on the varying degrees of enlightenment, capacity, faith, honesty, devotion and high-mindedness of the leaders of public opinion”.

(Abdu’l-Baha, The Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 15)


“The sovereigns of the world,” writes ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in elaboration of this theme, “must conclude a binding treaty, and establish a covenant, the provisions of which shall be sound, inviolable and definite. They must proclaim it to all the world, and obtain for it the sanction of all the human race… All the forces of humanity must be mobilized to insure the stability and permanence of this Most Great Covenant… The fundamental principle underlying this solemn Pact should be so fixed that if any government later violate any one of its provisions, all the governments on earth should arise to reduce it to utter submission, nay the human race as a whole should resolve, with every power at its disposal, to destroy that government.”

(Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u'llah, p. 192)


Since Bernd Debusmann is this inaccurate on firearms issues, I have to wonder about the accuracy of his other editorials. It’s apparent that he did not research this article and may have relied on “data” from organizations with their own agenda. Poor reporting, by any definition, but apparently acceptable for editorial comment. My faith in Reuters as a conveyor of news, truth, or any of the other noble virues has dropped considerably. Blaming Mexico’s problems on US gun laws is like blaming New York’s weather on Pennsylvania. I can only assume that Debusmann was seriously hoodwinked by some of his gun information sources – to advance their own agenda.

Posted by Steve | Report as abusive

As a law abiding legal gun owner I applaude and very much agree with the pro 2nd ammendment responses. Come on do you really think law abiding US citizens are buying guns for drug cartel bad guys then smuggling them across the border??
Stop the drugs and the cartels will dissolve along with the killing and abuse. Mexico should stop pointing fingers and beef up their border searches with good, honest border police if there is such a thing.
Without the 2nd ammendment the United States would be just a hollow shell of a country with a lot of scared sheep (read people).

Posted by Guy | Report as abusive

The pro gun argument by Dave532 is weak. The assumption that the way to protect yourself from “gun-toting criminals” is to carry guns yourself is absurd. I believe the chances of lowering the amount of gun deaths by introducing MORE guns into the equation doesn’t make any sense at all.

Your neighborhood cop is trained (or should be) in firearm use. He is also trained into how to assess a situation and make the decision WHEN to pull out the firearm. Your neighborhood cop has also got a big target painted on him since he has been granted the authority to enforce the law.

I would venture a guess that most gun owners have less than adequate training or experience with a gun to warrant using one. I would also think that a person like yourself doesn’t have any other plan of protection other than “I’ve got a bigger gun than yours”. While that plan works there are other preventative measures that can be taken looooong before the criminal ends up in front of you with a gun.

Posted by Soelas | Report as abusive

Gun control critics, do you really believe Washington DC & Chicago can be taken seriously as examples of ineffective gun control given their proximity to uncontrolled jurisdictions and their exposure to uncontrolled populations?
How do you reconcile this position when considering the significantly lower homicide rates of Australia, Britain & Canada for example (and there are many others), as compared with those of the US?

I just don’t see how intelligent gun control doesn’t benefit everyone – definitely including gun fans. With intelligent gun control:
* People who don’t want guns don’t buy them.
* Criminals find it much harder to procure them.
* Perfectly normal law abiding citizens who have guns as a hobby can go to the local shooting range & shoot their own gun.
* Guns become just another hobby & its hobbyists no longer need to defend their hobby from those who don’t share it.
* Unstable 16 year olds have no option to plot & commit mass murder.
* The out of control meth addict tries to rob the local convenience store with a far less lethal weapon.
* The US constitution’s 2nd amendment stays in tact.
Add to all of that fewer dead people & how do good people lose out whether they are pro gun control or not?

Believe it or not, I like guns well more than most people, but I wouldn’t give up the gun control in my country for anything unless it saved more lives.

Posted by Mark from Australia | Report as abusive

The Bush Administration has a direct responsibility for this situation. The business interests who funneled million of dollars to G W Bush and his team want to break the already low wages of the USA low and middle class by allowing millions of illegals to cross the border into the USA. How did they do this–by virtually leaving the border totally open and unenforced by the border patrols or by erecting a protective barrier. All along the border from Texas to California, local governments are forced to now deal with this influx of non-educated and impoverished people from Mexico and South America. One could easily reason that the bravado that Bush has exuded since 9/11 that he is fighting terrorism in Iraq is a pile of crap. Terrorists can easily come into the USA hundreds of ways all along the 2000 mile Mexican border.
We now are reaping the another of the Bush ugly history–thousands of Mexicans are fighting what amounts to a civil war just a few mile from us here in El Paso. Over 3,000 police in Juarez have been killed in the last 12 months.
Don’t get too complacent however. I think this bloody drug war will come right on over the border in the next 5 years and we will all be caught in it. Gangs already have staked out turf in all our major cities. Gun battles, kidnapping, murder, police corruption are coming to a neighborhood near you as this spreads. Thank God only 2 more months of GW Bush’s failure. However, we will all be victims of his neglect and greed for years to come.

Posted by Barry Rand | Report as abusive

This all a hoax! They cannot have those guns in Mexico –it is illegal, it is against the law, so the guns cannot be there.

I will maybe buy into gun control when I do not see criminals with illegal guns. Control them first!

Posted by Rod | Report as abusive

I live three miles from the Mexican Border. The ONLY people
getting SHOT UP are the cartel members shooting at each
other. Once in a great great while another person or baby
gets hit by a stray bullet but they are few and far in

In Mexico they have NO SECOND AMENDMENT so the ONLY ONES
that possess firearms arms are the BAD GUYS and the
CARTEL MEMBERS. I say we equip every citizen in Mexico
with a firearm and ammunition and let them solve their
own problems.

Posted by Lee Robinson | Report as abusive

Guns to Mexico ! ! ! WHY NOT ! !


We Americans are once again being bad-mouthed for
supplying guns to Mexico ..

I propose that we stop selling guns to Mexico when THEY
stop selling Marijuana, Cocaine, Meth-amphetamines, and
God knows what else illegally to the USA. FYI about 80%
of the Cocaine used in the USA is either manufactured
in or transported through Mexico. Stop them at the border fence like Ramos and Campean tried to and the Street
Gangs like MS-13 and the Latin Kings …

Don’t blame the gun but blame the Gang members and
the Drug Dealers who use them ( Dah ??)..

OH and Reuters. Stop publishing the “propaganda” like
the article blaming the US for violence in Mexico.
Remove the guns and they will still kill the other
Cartel members with knives,stick and stones, or
machete’s or anything they can get their hands on.
This is irresponsible journalism at its best.

signed ; Long time TV Engineer

Posted by Lee Robinson | Report as abusive

Not all of these weapons could come from the US.
The drug cartels are not buying the automatic weapons at gun shows in the US. Civilian AK-47s and AR15s are not fully automatic. Fully automatic weapons are illegal for most people to purchase and possess. 5.7×28 The “cop-killer” gun is only armor piercing with the military grade ammunition which is not sold to civilians in the US. The cold war CZ52 pistol, made in 1952, can pierce armor with commonly available ammo. Many common hunting rifle cartridges are capable of defeating armor with cheap ammo.
I would not be surprised if many of the arms come from the Mexican army. The cartels have enough cash to corrupt all but the most honest of men.

Posted by Kansas City | Report as abusive

Here in vancouver canada we have strict gun control but it has not slowed the open drug war. When the police make a seizure there are weapons from around the world this is a port city. With the olympics in 10 months i hope the drug guys are sports fans and take a break. The point is criminals have easy access even with our strict gun laws.

Posted by steve | Report as abusive

As always people miss the problem and solution. Regulation increases crime; look what happened when we had prohibition. Legalize the stuff; save all the money on the war on drugs and use it for the a campaign about the responsible use of recreational drugs. Tax the things like tobacco and you will eliminate the Cartels and solve the budgit deficit.


No wonder there is a shortage of grenades and full auto weapons at the gun shows. The Mexican mafia is buying them all up. Whoops, these were outlawed already in 1934 here in the U.S. I think murder is against the law also.

Maybe if they made drugs illegal people would stop using them?


#1 You can’t just buy guns on the internet. If you are a gun dealer and have an FFL 001 license you can. If you are a licensed collector of curios and relics, an FFL 003, you can buy certain firearms from other licensed dealers. In either case, you have been checked out by the ATF and your local police have been advised and given the chance for input.
#2 The only gun sales at gun shows that are done without background checks are those between private individuals. Any dealer will still have to do the check. Many shows forbid private sales.
# I suspect that most of the trade in guns is through the Mexican gangs that have been allowed to flourish in the US. Mexico is a third world cancer that is metastasizing into the US. Build the fence and arm the people.

Posted by Ed | Report as abusive

The author fails to point out nearly every major poll taken over the past 30 months identifies the fact the overwhelming majority of Americans want the Mexican border “secured.” There are outstanding examples of security improvement walls provide; Israel and Sadr City. The crimes of suicide attacks, crimes against persons and auto theft declined dramatically in Israel, even though the world screamed obsenities at Israel for its construction The building of the wall around Sadr City confined the criminals to the area, giving our troops command and control with the added benefit the citizens of Sadr City got tired of the militants heavy handed ways and have begun to cooperate with U.S. forces for their eradication.
Why don’t our citizens deserve this same consideration? Yes, I understand the “scope” of the project; current employment conditions provide an adequate work force to carry it out. I also understand the gravity of the confiscation of property issue in emminent domain and sympathize with those citizens cast into that environment. However, the fact is our border towns are war zones, our border hospitals are turning into triage centers for Mexican drug cartel warfare and the violence is spilling into them with subsequent assasination attempts. One need look no further than Juarez and El Paso to corroborate this evidence.

Posted by Rick Dendorfer | Report as abusive

Guns, Guns, Guns:
Why do US citizens want guns? To protect themselves from guns.
Do you get it??? What the???

See if you took the Guns away eventually you all wouldn’t be so scared of each other. It seems to me that most Americans live in ‘fear’.
You fear ‘God’, ‘Guns’, ‘Gangs’, ‘each other’, & ‘yourselves’. No wonder every man & his dog has anxiety and a therapist. Those therapists must be raking it in. If I was a therapist I’d be pro-guns.

Posted by brad | Report as abusive

The point that makes gun control (and I mean registration) so unpopular with me is this: I have firsthand experience with that from Germany:

Once such a measure is established it is irresistible for politicians to squeeze the blood out of gun owners with the never tiring argument to increase the safety for the population.

Gun control has a couple of components, some of the are acceptable, others not:

1.) Gunowner be a good, reliable citizen (acceptable)

2.) Proven handling skills (not too hard to acquire, acceptable)

3.) Legal knowledge about legal self defense, penalties for mischievous or illegal use, gun storage and such (acceptable)

4.) Gun storage in a secure locker (generally acceptable, but risk is that the legal requirements are defined too high; not everybody will have the opportunity to have 600 lb safe at home; with storage requirements come legal responsibilities; if a gun is stolen, the good citizen may face a downgrade to be an unreliable citizen, barred from owning guns)

5.) Requirement to acquire or own guns, citizen got to beg for permission or prove a requirement as a licensed hunter, shooter or collector (This is the stickiest one, because there is a politician between you and your gun ownership; you have in effect a politician or administrator meddling with your private life and imposing further contraints on you as far as licensing is concerned; absolute nuisance = unacceptable )

6.) Next stop, once the populuation is been suckered into believing that gun registration is a good thing, gun confiscation; very easy because the administration knows what everybody has; possible unwarranted home searches (= unacceptable; only alternative: don’t tell anybody and put your guns and ammo away until you really need them; better being illegal on that point than dead)

Posted by wolfgang | Report as abusive

Mexico being disarmed, no 2nd amendment, innocents unable defend themselves, corrupt government, no border security from the US, corrupt police forces, on and on. There wouldn’t be drug cartels in Mexico if we American didn’t use drugs. Mexico would still be the corrupt hole it has always been regardless of our addiction to drugs. The Mexican citizen has always been at the mercy of the cartels, police, and federals. We need our 2nd amendment to defend ourselves from our corrupt government. Britain and Australia have been disarmed, crime is rampant, and the everyday citizen cannot defend themselves. All governments seek to eventually disarm their citizens. citizens. If it happens here, get used to living in fear.

Posted by Gary | Report as abusive

The United States has had the ability to get the guns off the streets for a long time. I did not say – get the guns out of your homes. Take a majority of the drug offenders out of jails and prisons and replace them with criminal element of this society that insists upon transporting weapons on our streets for the purpose killing people and/or commiting crimes. I did not say transporting firearms for hunting in designated seasons or going to or from shooting ranges. The present approach to firearms in this country is absolutely insane and totally uncontained. US citizens would still be allowed to bear firearms in their homes for protection and hunting without compromising the original Constitutionality of bearing arms. Containment on our streets of guns for commiting crimes would stem the flow of arms to our neighbors also.

Posted by Mike C | Report as abusive

Like it or not, Legal gun ownership is protected by the Constitution; however, guns are not the root of the problem, drugs are. These Mexican cartels only exist to the fill the vacuum left by American drug prohibition. They supply the drugs that Americans continue to buy (regardless of legality), just as the mob supplied alcohol during prohibition. Administration after administration, from Nixon to G. W. Bush, has failed to end drug trafficking because of the simple forces of supply and demand. Guns are merely an ancillary problem – tools of the violent drug cartels that exist because of America’s absurd attitude towards drugs. If the Mexican and American governments were truly concerned with the safety of the border, they would consider ending the war on drugs, not further restricting the rights of their respective citizens.

Posted by Matthew | Report as abusive

Mexico has its own plethora of problems. one quick way to solve the drug cartel problem is to simply leagalize and regulate drugs in the US.

A legal, free market on drugs is the only way to regulate and tax the industry. Afterall, prohibition didn’t work and only created criminals like Al Capone. There is no difference between the bootleggers of prohibition and the mexican cartels. Leagilizing the drug industry in the US takes away any power of the cartels in mexico.

The second thing Mexico needs to do is what alot of others have been saying: Promote gun ownership for every citizen. Criminals fear nothing more than armed potential victims. Criminals always manage to get guns, while good citizens are the only ones who obey the and remain defenseless.

Until these things happen, the violence across the boder will only escalate even more.

Posted by Mark | Report as abusive

I agree with Aaron. America has a great talent for turning everything into a business – and the war on drugs is a good example, along with its cousin, Incarceration. Lax gun laws? Good for business. Loose borders? Good, too — only positively so. — AsiaScoop


Now see what alot of the supporters or “gun control” dont realize is the simple fact that the criminals will ALWAYS have guns. If we let the governement take the guns away from the legal citizens like me and millions of others how will we protect ourselves when the REAL criminal decides he wants to break in my house and rape my wife or daughter? That is the way it is and has always been. This is america if you prohibit something be it alcholo or drugs or guns people are still going to have them. The difference is it will be the criminals who have them and nobody else. That my friend is a world I personally dont want any part of.

Posted by ryanimler | Report as abusive

Criminals, by definition, do not obey gun laws. So it’s the law-abiding citizen that is handcuffed by restrictive gun laws. “lax American gun laws” are to blame for the drug cartel blood-bath? Please, Bernd, at least do your research- thanks to the NRA, the NICS is in place to minimize the chance of an unqualified person buying a firearm. And, sorry, but a pistol (even the FN 5-7) does not have a 300 meter reach — Geez, do your homework! The VPC is a hard-left, anti-personal self-defense organization and their statistics should be considered suspicious.

Enhance border security? With a vigorous force and on both sides! But some would criticize that as being zenophobic and nationalistic – so we can’t use common sense clues to deter, hold, arrest, prosecute and jail those who would perpetrate cross-border crimes. Quit blaming the USA for the ills of other countries! Sloppy journalism, sir.

Posted by DocForesight | Report as abusive

American guns in Mexico? I am so happy to hear we are actually manufacturing something for export that someone is buying.

Posted by Brenda Spencer | Report as abusive

You are definitely right. It is time Mexico starts watching its border once and for all. I mean, how hard would it be to send 10,000 soldiers to check almost every car that goes into Mexico. Guns will have a harder time to get across the border, they will not stop flowing, but such searches could deter people from even trying, rising the prices putting drug lords nearly out of business. Anything, I think will help, but then again, how many more victims are needed before the Mexican government starts doing something, 5000, 10,000, 20,0000? Who knows. One can only wait and see, I just hope the Mexican government doesn’t throw the towel. Thanks for your report and Happy Holidays.


Posted by Jose Rincon | Report as abusive

“Poor Mexico–so far from God and so close to the United States”.

(“!Pobre Mexico–tan lejos de Dios, y tan cercita a Los Estados Unidos!”).

Truer words were never spoken.


It is senseless to blame inanimate objects for the actions of people. The Drug Cartels have guns because they have the money to buy guns. They have very good guns because they have a lot of money. War cannot be waged without financing. The US cannot wage war in Afghanistan or Iraq without financing and these drug Cartels cannot wage war without it either. Take away the Money and you take away their ability to wage war. The only way you can take their money away is to legalize the Marijuana and Cocaine industries in the US. The current US government and some State governments do not want this to happen. Until this attitude changes it is a waste of time taking about how these very wealthy Cartels get their weapons for if it is not from the US it will be from somewhere else and the war will wage on.

Posted by B.Free | Report as abusive

mexico isn’t the only place in the caribbean where americans are selling guns:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7684 983.stm

Posted by jamaican watcher | Report as abusive

How about if we just legalize drugs? Imagine if the narcotraficantes and the Taliban had to hold bake sales to stay in business.

Posted by Juan SF | Report as abusive

One wonders what Mexico would be like if they enforced their Northern border the way they enforce their Southern border. With a fully equipped army on the border would the drug cartels be interested in any weapon American? What would be the cost then? With an ever increasing flow of illegal immigration out of Mexico’s northern border it would seem that the government of Mexico gives not even one small twiddle for the rights and protection of its own people. Why then, should Americans abridge their own right to protection? It makes no sense to me.

Posted by Thomas Nickelsen | Report as abusive

Good column! I worked as a Border Patrol Agent on the Mexican/US border from 1985 to 1999 and was stationed in Laredo, TX, truly still a part of the old west and an environment completely unique, even along the weird culture known as the southern border.

It’s lawless in attitude and culture. There are fewer social norms that would link that area to the USA there than almost anywhere I have ever been.

I was very glad to finally get away when I transferred to the Northern Border and many of us would refer to a transfer out of Laredo, TX as “Moving back to the USA”. I retired this year after 23 years of service and was damn glad to do so as that job has gone completely in the toilet during my time in service.

The nation of Mexico is, in my opinion as well as many people I worked with and observers along “the line”, as complete disaster of a nation and as far as the technical terms for a “Failed State”, it may or may not be, but it is a wreck.

I’ve seen a lot of sad things when I was there, crazy things and heard stories to make one just stare in amazement.

I ran across your column here online while looking at some other stories, but will bookmark it so I can find your writing again. Thanks for a good clear insight.

I’m also willing to bet that the drug wars there will do nothing but get worse over the next couple years too. The culture of government workers, top to bottom on Mexico, as well as many parts of the USA near the border is completely and totally corrupt and unfixable, again in my opinion.

If you go there, be careful and watch your back!

Posted by Carl Pietrantonio | Report as abusive

I have lots of friends in the business and professional community of Monterey, Nuevo Leon, which is the third largest city in Mexico and located 150 miles south of the Texas border. About ten years ago we all came to the realisation that the border region of Northern Mexico and the Southwestern US, specifically Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, Tamaulipas and Chihuahua was gradually returning to the status of a semi-autonomous and largely ungovernable region that it was for most of the 19th and into the early 20th century.The exchange of contraband for cash across an artificial and porous border, paramilitary warfare between federal police/rurales/armed forces and violently rebelious communities, great disparities of wealth between urban and rural Mexico and a less than cooperative relationship between Washington and Mexico City have been features of this region for almost 200 years. Automatic weapons, cell phones, automobiles and electronic funds transfer have simply accelerated the pace of rebellion but have not fundimentally changed its nature.
The salient difference between then and now is a pervasive electronic media that regularly brings this tradition of regional lawlessness into middle class American and Mexican living rooms. Hence the recent expressions of public dismay and consequent demands that something must be done.
However, bringing law and order to the border lands requires the kind of fundimental policy changes that will antagonise powerful interest groups in both countries. To cite but one example, Mr. Debusmann dwelled at length on the almost unhindered flow of American made firearms into Mexico. What is the likelihood of restrictions on the possession and private sale of firearms in the US surviving the de facto legislative veto of the NRA, domestic arms manufacturers and the outdoor sports lobby? What is the likelihood of a poorly trained, underpaid and throughly intimidated Mexican Army effectively interdicting American weapons at their border?

Both governments lack both the resolve and domestic political muscle to bring even a modicum of order to the border lands now or in the future. If you find the reality of low intensity warfare in southern Texas and northern Mexico disturbing get used to it. It will be with us for a long, long time.

Michael McCullough         


Gee, these guys weren’t riddled with automatic gun fire. I guess we need to start controlling the machetes that we sell also. If this keeps up we may find oursleves down to baseball bats and butter knives.

Soldiers decapitated in new round of Mexico drug war
Mon Dec 22, 2008 1:39am EST
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexican police on Sunday found nine decapitated bodies and the army identified eight soldiers who had died fighting powerful drug gangs and whose murders were seen as a brazen challenge to the government.

The bodies showed signs of torture. They were left on the side of a highway about an hour north of the tourist resort of Acapulco in the southern state of Guerrero, state police said.

Their heads were stuffed in a plastic bag and left outside a shopping center.

Mexico’s President Feline Calderon has deployed tens of thousands of troops and police since 2006 to take on drug cartels. The defense ministry vowed not to back down despite its latest losses.

“They are trying to scare the military. Regardless, the ministry promises to continue fighting,” it said in a statement.

The ministry released the names of eight decapitated soldiers but said one of them was recovered on December 9.

Drug killings throughout Mexico have more than doubled to over 5,300 this year, scaring off investment and tourists. The United States has sent hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to help its southern neighbor fight the cartels.

The Mexican army has made some prominent captures, but the cartels seem able to quickly replace their losses. Meanwhile, a growing number of police have been gruesomely murdered.

A note left with the severed heads warned of more decapitations, the state police said.

Posted by B.Free | Report as abusive

We need to make automatic weapons like AK 47′s etc ILLEGAL. I am sick to death of the control the NRA and gun manufacturers have over guns which basically their only purpose is to kill other human beings. We are we going to grow up and decide we don’t need these things to be sold….period… and this country would be a better place without them.

Posted by jackson | Report as abusive

To Jackson,
I understand your concern with the availability of some guns. That said, automatic weapons, such as the AK-47 and the like, are already illegal to buy and sale without some kind of special permit, which is difficult to obtain. What these goons are using are “semi-automatic” weapons which are not illegal and use a similar operating mechanism as semi-automatic shotguns, hunting rifles and handgunds.