I know it's rare that I post pure commentary without a news story attached. But one of my readers posted a comment several days ago in response to another story, and what he said has been percolating in my brain for a little bit. I'd like to explore both sides of this idea, and then open it up to my readers for (hopefully) civil and thoughtful comments.
Some of you may already know that the majority of Mexican citizens cannot purchase firearms. Technically they're allowed to own them, because Mexico's constitution has wording very similar to our Second Amendment. However, there are only a handful of gun shops in the entire country, and the sheer volume of paperwork, checks, and personal recommendations required is huge. Even if you could obtain permission to buy a gun, the highest caliber pistol you could get is pretty low, with the higher calibers reserved strictly for law enforcement and the military.
These restrictions obviously haven't had much of an impact on gun violence in Mexico. DTOs obtain all the firepower they need from guns purchased in the US and smuggled south, and weapons and grenades "imported" from former eastern bloc countries, Central America, and Asia. DTOs also know they're operating in an environment of a population powerless to do anything, because even the police who are armed and sworn to protect them are in cahoots with the DTOs.
But what if the Mexican people were no longer powerless, and could legally arm themselves? Would this make a difference in the drug war?
Analysis: Let's take a look at the "pro" side first. I think there's a possibility that DTOs might change their strategy a bit if they knew the Mexican people - who have had it "up to here" with drug violence - all of a sudden had a means with which to defend themselves. Vigilante groups are starting to pop up in places as a result. More and more people refuse to go out at night or eat at certain restaurants because of the fear of becoming collateral damage in a gun fight between rival cartel members. Maybe the ability to carry a gun for self-defense would instill some confidence in some Mexicans to venture out again, and would give some narcos pause before kidnapping someone for ransom or entering an establishment and spraying it down with bullets.
Legal gun sales in Mexico would also likely have a positive impact on the southbound weapons trafficking problem. Of course, that just makes thing better for us, and doesn't completely solve the problem of certain weapons that Mexico probably wouldn't legally sell to its citizens. But probably much fewer handguns and standard rifles would be making their way across the border.
Looking for an example of Mexico's gun situation in the US is difficult, but can be found right in our nation's capital. Until very recently, it was illegal for residents in Washington, DC to own handguns. Ironically enough, some parts of DC are among the most violent in the country. The ban obviously didn't have much of an impact on criminal activity, and I'm curious to see how criminals there will start behaving now that they know the owner of the house they're thinking of burglarizing might be able to legally protect his home with a gun.
Finally, Mexico's economy is hurting even more than ours. Providing Mexicans with the opportunity to open hundreds of gun shops across the country, combined with the likely high number of people who'd be interested in buying guns for self-defense, might provide the Mexican economy with a much-needed injection of cash.
Now let's look at the "cons." The first and easiest argument to make is that gun violence in Mexico is bad enough as it is. Does anyone want to add to that by throwing armed citizens into the mix? Also, the majority of gun battles occur between narcos and cops, narcos and the military, or narcos and other narcos. All of them are armed already, so legalizing gun sales may not impact that.
Given the high level of corruption in Mexico at all levels, regulating gun sales and investigating violations would be challenging at best. The government would also need to implement a more robust registration system, and rewrite laws and regulations regarding requirements for gun ownership. This isn't complicate per se, but things move at a snail's pace already in Mexico's judicial and legislative system.
As I said earlier, vigilantism is already on the rise. Providing regular citizens with an easy path to gun ownership might push people who are currently on the fence towards joining or starting such a group willing to take the law into their own hands. This further subverts Mexican legal institutions, and could throw the country into even further chaos.
So what are your thoughts? Would removing most restrictions from private gun ownership in Mexico make a difference in the drug war?