Three-quarters of guns used in Mexico violence come from US border states

Clinton: Mexico drug war bordering on 'insurgency'

Anti-immigration crusaders have recently been making some questionable claims about the US's problems on the Mexican border, blaming undocumented immigrants for everything from non-existent "beheadings" in the Arizona desert to (equally non-existent) drug-gang attempts to "take over" ranches in Texas.

But now it appears Mexico is dealing with its own "immigration" problem: Guns illegally brought into the country from the US.

According to a report from a US mayors' group, reported on by ABC News, as many as three out of four guns used in the bloodshed surrounding Mexico's drug gangs came from gun stores just across the US border.

The report, put together by Mayors Against Illegal Guns and based on data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, has documented 19,000 guns found in the Mexican drug war that came from stores in the United States, mostly in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas.

ABC News notes that Congress had initially tried to block the release of the ATF data on which the report was based. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said his group had put in the request for the data in 2009 and did not receive it until March of this year.

"This is information, previously hidden by Congress, that the public needs to see, to show how guns bought in the US are fueling the drug wars in Mexico," Bloomberg said. "[It] again proves it is too easy for criminals and traffickers to get guns."

For the government of Mexico, the source of the guns enabling the violence is more than an academic curiosity. In the past four years, 28,000 people have died in drug cartel-related violence. In recent months the violence has grown to such proportions that on Wednesday Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the drug war is on the verge of becoming an "insurgency."

"These drug cartels are now showing more and more indices of insurgency. All of a sudden, car bombs show up, which weren't there before," Clinton told a foreign-policy think-tank on Wednesday. "It's looking more and more like Colombia looked 20 years ago, where the narco-traffickers control certain parts of the country."

In the most recent incident, the mayor of El Naranjo in the state of San Luis Potosi was killed in his office in front of visitors, according to Reuters. It's just the latest in a wave of killings and kidnappings of Mexican elected officials.

Last week, the massacre of 72 people in Tamaulipas state was followed up by the disappearance of the investigators probing the event.


The mayors' report blames the phenomenon of US guns in Mexico in part on lax gun laws in US border states.

"The differences in export rates to Mexico among the four border states may reflect differences in the way those states regulate guns," the report states, as quoted at ABC News.

In April, Mexican President Felipe Calderon appeared before Congress and appealed for the US to reinstate a ban on semi-automatic weapons that had been enacted during the Clinton era and was allowed to expire in 2004. Calderon argued that violence in Mexico rose dramatically after the law expired, the Washington Times reported.

"With all due respect, if you do not regulate the sale of these weapons in the right way, nothing guarantees that criminals here in the United States with access to the same power of weapons will not decide to challenge American authorities and civilians," Calderon said.

Last month, former Mexican President Vicente Fox told Bloomberg News that the US could help end the drug war by tightening gun laws -- and loosening drug laws.

“What is happening is that this huge market of the United States in drug consumption, the largest in the world, is generating the weapons that are sold to Mexican cartels, and is generating the money that is laundered in the United States and brought to Mexico,” Fox said.

He said legalizing narcotics would take economic wind out of the sails of organized crime. “Radical prohibition strategies have never worked."

Mexico decriminalized possession of small amounts of drugs -- including marijuana, cocaine and heroin -- last year.