Proceso: Mathieu Tourliere
The southern border of the United States is full of small gun stores that depend on Mexico to varying degrees. The arms industry of that country benefits each year from its "exports" to the southern neighbor on a scale of 127 million dollars.
These are just two small indicators of a problem, the traffic of arms, which on one hand delivers stratospheric economic gains and on the other generates thousands of deaths. And the question has its counterpart in Mexico: the confiscation of these weapons is minimal.
Although Mexico has one of the world's strictest laws on gun ownership, the authorities confiscated only 14% of the 252,000 that cross the northern border illegally every year.
These are figures from the report El Camino de las Armas [The Arms Highway]: Estimates of firearms trafficking across the border between the United States and Mexico were released on Monday, March 18, by the University of San Diego and the Igarapé Institute of Brazil.
Only 2.2% of the weapons that were sold between 2010 and 2012 in U.S. territory were trafficked to Mexico. However, 46.7% of the 51,000 U.S. gun shops (especially those near the border) depends "to some extent" on Mexican demand.
In the same period, arms trafficking to Mexico generated revenues of 127 million dollars a year for the sector, which is four times greater than in the period 1997-1999 and more than six times greater than that estimated in the most recent 2012 UN report on drug and arms trafficking.
The report notes that a new methodology was used to obtain the above figures. The "classic" methodology calculates weapons flow from a base number of illegal weapons seized by authorities.
In contrast, the new methodology took into account the number of applications for licenses to sell arms in the United States and cross-checked them with factors that determine domestic demand, such as income, population density, political trends and crime rate. From this starting point, they estimated total traffic demand in terms of number of weapons and revenue for the industry.
The study shows that the density of gun stores is higher along the southern border of the United States. In fact, 6,700 gun stores are concentrated in the border areas of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, with an average of two stores per kilometer.
According to the report, in Mexico more than 15 million illegal weapons are in circulation, 80% of which come from the United States. It also reports that firearms were used in half of the 120,000 murders committed between 2007 and 2012.
To counter this flow, the study recommends greater control of its domestic [arms] trade by the United States, where since the 1980s 2,200 factories in the country have produced 98 million handguns and rifles.
On January 9, the Mexican Congress asked U.S. senators to set up a ballistic registry of arms in border states in order to
"know precisely the name of who originally purchased it and proceed to search and locate its owner," clarified PRI Senator Marcela Guerra Castillo.
The Mexican Congress also requested that the ban on assault rifles be legally reinstated on the border with Mexico. This request is in Bulletin 0796 of the Standing Committee of the Legislative Body [Congress].
Assault Weapon Ban Showered With Shrapnel
In April, the U.S. Senate will vote on a law to control the arms trade. This law was requested by the Obama administration after the massacre of twenty-seven people, including twenty children, in Newtown, Connecticut. However, on Wednesday, March 20, the New York Times published that the conservative opposition will obstruct ratification of a comprehensive text by "flooding it with amendments so that it becomes pro-arms."
Dianne Feinstein, senator D-California, saw her clause banning the sale of 157 types of assault weapons disappear. The coup de grace came from her own camp: Harry Reid, Senate majority leader, withdrew his support, arguing that with this clause the final text did not have the sixty votes needed to pass, reported The New York Times. In any case, Reid said that senators could propose clauses by means of amendments.
The bill will be limited to establishing greater control over background checks and mental health status of gun buyers, as requested by such pro-arms interest groups as the National Rifle Association (NRA). But Joe Biden, U.S. vice president, acknowledged in January that the government
"simply does not have the time or staff to investigate each (buyer) who lied or filled out a form badly," as quoted by the NRA Institute of Legislative Action, the Association's lobbying group.
According to the The Arms Highway report ...
"the fact that only 5% of all registered gun dealers in the United States are inspected annually suggests that there is little screening for illegal practices, such as sales to 'straw buyers (front men)."
In 1994 the Clinton administration decreed (sic) [in 1994 the U.S. Congress passed the] ban of ten years for the sale of assault rifles, which George W. Bush did not endorse in 2004. In 2004, the domestic sales of arms had a growth spurt, so the authors [of The Arms Highway report] conclude that
"the end of the ban was responsible for a growth of 16.4% of homicides in Mexico between 2004 and 2008."
Between 1997 and 1999, when the assault rifles ban was in effect, only 88,000 weapons were introduced to Mexico, one-third of the current  number.
Legal Birth: Arms Trade Treaty (ATT)
According to the International Institute for Peace Research in Stockholm (SIPRI, for its acronym in English), the volume of arms transfers in the world grew 17% from 2003 to 2007 and from 2008 to 2012. It recalls that the United States produces 30% of conventional weapons that circulate in the world, followed by Russia (26%) and Germany (7%).
On Tuesday, March 19, at a ceremony in front of the U.S. embassy [in Mexico City], Daniel Zapico, representative of Amnesty International (AI) in Mexico, recalled that "all weapons are born with a legal status" but thereafter enter a system of trafficking.
"There is a relationship between the irresponsible arms trade and serious human rights violations", states the organization's report The Major Powers Feed Atrocities: Why the World Needs a Strong Arms Trade Treaty.
On Monday, March 18, at the United Nations headquarters in New York, the Final Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) began. In July 2012, the 193 countries participating in the conference had already agreed to the law's text, but the United States, Russia and China asked for time to return to the negotiating table.
In his opening speech UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon emphasized that there is no international standard governing the arms trade, while there are rules for trade in all other products from sofas to tomatoes.
On Wednesday, March 13, the Mexican Senate approved a 'point of agreement' in support of the ATT, which it has always defended. During negotiations in July of 2012, Roberto Dondisch Glowinski, Mexico's chief negotiator, declared that
"the lack of control over arms sales makes producer countries responsible for the crimes committed by non-state entities."
In these negotiations, Mexico leads a group of 106 countries that intend to "finish the job"; that is, to arrive at an agreement.
"A weak AAT could serve to give legitimacy to the irresponsible and illegal weapons trade," Dondisch [from AI] declared during the conference.
The major firearms exporters, such as the United States, Russia, China, France and Israel argued that this trade is legal and legitimate, and that national security and defense policies are part of sovereignty. Should these powers not sign it, the treaty would lose effectiveness.
Military spending in the world in 2011 totaled 1.7 trillion dollars, according to data provided by the 2012 SIPRI Annual Report.
On Wednesday, March 27, the Australian Peter Woolcott, President of the Arms Trade Treaty Conference, announced the final form of the text, which differs at some points from the July 2012 text.
At press time for this edition, representatives of Iran and North Korea had objected to the text in its current form, so Woolcott had to postpone its ratification to try to convince them. Everything suggests that the treaty will be submitted to the UN General Assembly on April 2 to gather the two-thirds vote that would permit passage.
The treaty calls upon States to establish systems of control over exports, imports, transit and business agents involved with weapons. By signing, they will have to retain for ten years a report about the quantity, value, type and model of weapons, as well as details about the exporter, about the transit States and about who use such weapons.
It also calls upon States not to transfer weapons if there are suspicions that they will be used to facilitate genocides, crimes against humanity or war; it also requests not to transfer them if there is a risk that they might be diverted to feed illegal markets, criminal and terrorist groups, or when such transfer might involve corruption.
By ratifying this text, the importing States will verify whether the information exists, and they will request export authorizations to be delivered by the export control system of the exporting country.
In its current form, the text lists as "conventional weapons" battle tanks, armored vehicles, high caliber artillery systems, military aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles and missile launchers and light weapons. So-called weapons of mass destruction, drones (unmanned aircraft) and grenades fall outside this classification.
Interest Groups and Stakeholders
The agreement still must be approved by the States and incorporated into their legislation. In the United States, resistance to regulating weapons, including ammunition, is very strong, as it is to a ban on the sale of assault rifles. Articles 3 and 4--unpublished--of the new version of the treaty encourage States to establish a system of national control over ammunition and components for conventional weapons. When he received representatives of Amnesty International on Tuesday, March 19, the U.S. ambassador in Mexico told them that it will be "difficult to include ammunition in the treaty."
Of the seven civil society representatives who could speak at meetings of the Conference of the AAT, which took place in July of 2012 and Monday, March 18--only one spoke in favor of a text to regulate
"all weapons, all transfers and all transactions (...) without excluding certain light weapons such as for hunting or sport."
This group is the Coalition for Arms Control, which is made up of organizations like Amnesty International, Safeworld and Oxfam.
But the other six representatives belong to pro-arms interest groups, all from the United States and supported by the arms industry of that country. They threatened that the text will not be approved by the U.S. Senate if it includes "civilian arms" or ammunition and based their argument on protecting the Second Amendment of their Constitution.
"Weapons are tools and like all tools, they can be used for better or for worse," noted Richard Patterson, managing director of the Institute for Arms and Munitions Factories Inc. at the July conference.
At the same session, Wayne LaPierre, vice president of the NRA, said that he represents the interests of 100 million U.S. citizens who own firearms.
"Let's be clear. Any treaty that includes civilian gun ownership in their area will find the greatest opposition from the NRA," he shouted before threatening that "treaties must be adopted by a two-thirds majority of the U.S. Senate, 58 senators have already objected to one treaty that includes civilian firearms."
Johanna Reeves, executive director of the trade group Firearms Importers / Exporters declared to the July 2012 conference,"that only assault rifles should be included in a AAT, and ammunition must be out of its application."
According to Amnesty International, 12 billion munitions are already circulating in the world, which represents two bullets per person.
In a statement posted January 25 on its website "legislative action", the NRA was pleased to announce:"Several authors noted that the NRA's opposition was key to the failure of the July conference.
"Needless to say, our position will be maintained before any treaty that could affect the rights of American gun owners," it added.
Upon seeing the removal of her clause for a ban on assault rifles, Senator Diane Feinstein lamented: "I cannot fight the NRA. They are very powerful enemies, I've known it all my life."
Mexico also knows it.
It is truly Ironic that Liberal anti-gun Zelots all think of themselves as champions of freedom and yet these same people, promote massive govt programs ,legislation that controls every aspect of peoples lives" ITS FOR YOUR OWN GOOD" gas cans,cars, anything and everything, designed,permitted and controlled by YOUR FRIENDLY GOVT. GUNS, here we go again! Pass more laws like Mexico,disarm the public,like Mexico and you get the same IDIOTIC Mis Managed HELL that exists in Mexico. IS THIS REALLY WHAT THE LIBERAL PROGRESSIVES WANT?? Can any of you JOURNALIST imagine that Mexico would be Much BETTER OFF if it had a culture of private gun ownership !! How many Mexicans have been forced to violate Mexican Law, to protect themselves, THIS WORKS BY THE WAY !! SO rave on about the evil armed,gun nut GRINGO , then LOOK at which side of the border YOU want to live on. THINK you inexperienced twits.
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