Mexico, a 760,000 square mile nation with 126 million people, has exactly one legal gun store in the entire country. Despite that, it has one of the highest rates of gun homicide of any developed nation. Second Amendment absolutists use this as proof that gin control doesn’t work, but it leaves out a very important facet of the conversation. Half a million guns from the United States enter Mexico illegally every year. Those weapons are bought legally, mostly in Arizona and Texas.
When illegal border crossing is discussed by Texas Republicans, it’s usually to denounce crime and poverty spreading north from Mexico, Central, and South America. Mexican drug cartels armed with AR-style weaponry proliferate trafficking of humans and dangerous substances, as well as hold violent territory wars. Lately, fentanyl has been the biggest concern for the average “build the wall” conservative. Mexican cartels process the drug and ship it into the United States, where it has become a major problem.
However, cartel activities would be impossible without the lax gun laws of the United States and Texas in particular. Known as the Iron Pipeline, straw buyers are either coerced by the cartels or willing participate in smuggling in exchange for money or drugs.
North Texas, in particular, sees an enormous amount of guns smuggled south. These are all legally purchased. While the recent gun control bill that passed in the wake of the Robb Elementary massacre does increase penalties for straw buyers, it is still just so easy to get guns in Texas that the problem persists.
Mexico has tried to respond in their own way. After the shooting in El Paso that left dozens dead, the country began looking for ways to sue gun manufacturers for the flood of weapons that have been sent to a country where guns are very difficult to obtain. Just as Chicago, a city with restrictive gun laws, has their intent continuously circumvented by easy gun sales in nearby states, Mexico has to deal with the enormous amount of guns produced in their northern neighbor.
The fact is that the Mexican gang violence so many people decry is enabled by the same proliferation of guns that the same people complaining support. Guns are very easy to smuggle south through the border, especially as Texas continues to focus all its attention on refugees and asylum seekers making legal crossings north.
The story of guns in Texas in the 21st Century is one where nearly anyone can acquire a gun for any reason with very few restrictions. There’s no state or national registry, no license required to open carry, and no need to document private sales. Buyers are not strongly questioned about what the ultimate purpose of their guns is, nor are they required to secure them from theft.
That attitude is why the Mexican cartels have so much power. Texas literally arms them by the thousands. Until the state takes a hard look at how we allow the sale of firearms, that is certain to continue.