The desperation of President Calderone in stopping the flow of weapons into Mexico from our country is reflected in his words. And it's plain to see why he is feeling desperate:"Calderon said the billboard's letters were made with weapons seized by local, state and federal authorities."Dear friends of the United States, Mexico needs your help to stop this terrible violence that we're suffering," Calderon said in English during the unveiling ceremony."The best way to do this is to stop the flow of automatic weapons into Mexico," he added.Before unveiling the billboard, Calderon supervised the destruction of more than 7,500 automatic rifles and handguns at a military base in Ciudad Juarez."
The Brady Campaign's V.P. Dennis Henigan has written this fine piece for Huffington Post highlighting the pleas from Mexican President Calderone to stop the flow of illegal guns into his country from the U.S. It's really more than sad when a neighboring leader has to go to such lengths. This should be a no-brainer. Cooperation between close neighbors to the U.S. has been traditional and normal. But these are not normal times. These are times when the NRA has such an out sized influence as an organization that they have managed to get themselves inserted into foreign relations. Considering that the NRA is a lobbying group with lots of money and lots of ability to make trouble, perhaps we shouldn't be surprised. But if we are not surprised, we should at least be willing to stand up against this group and do the right thing. Who's in charge here? Why should an organization that is supposed to be representing American hunters and gun owners be involved in an international issue? From the Henigan article:Calderon said more than 140,000 weapons have been seized since December 2006, when he launched a crackdown against drug traffickers. More than 47,500 people have been killed since then.One of the cities most affected by the violence is Ciudad Juarez, where more than 9,000 have died in drug violence since 2008.
Tragedy all the way around. Where is common sense? And what do the gun rights extremists have to say about this? Here is a response from the National Shooting Sports Foundation:The solution to gun trafficking to Mexico is also the solution to gun trafficking within the U.S.: stronger federal gun laws. At the very least, high-firepower assault weapons and assault clips should be banned, background checks should be required for all gun sales, uniform limits should be placed on bulk sales of handguns, and greater authority should be given to federal law enforcement to shut down the dealers who aid and abet the traffickers.For gun traffickers, there should be no more "path of least resistance" from American gun shops to Mexico, or to American cities and towns. Trafficking of assault weapons and handguns out of American gun shops is not just a Mexican tragedy. It is an American tragedy as well.
The firearms that President Calderon would have the United States ban are functionally no different than any other semi-automatic civilian sporting firearm. They shoot only one shot per trigger pull, no spray firing as some allege, and use the same ammunition as other guns of the same caliber. What differentiates modern sporting rifles from other guns is cosmetic; for example, the type of stock on the firearm.Right. That's a good excuse. Does it matter what kind of weapons are being trafficked from our country to Mexico? A bullet is a bullet is a bullet. And then comes a list of so-called "facts" about the problem of the U.S. providing guns to the Mexican drug cartel. I have refuted them many times before on this blog so will not do so again. What should concern us is the fact that President Calderone had to even put up the billboard in the first place. It's amazing that the NRA and the NSSF can ignore the real problem because of their unreasonable paranoia about their own gun rights. When do we get to think about the victims? Where is common sense?
Witness for Peace trip to Colombia. She shared several photos with me and has given me permission to use them in my blog. You can see them above and to the right. These signs are an attempt by the city of Bogota government to stop some of the gun violence in that country which has prevailed for many years.This 2006 article tells us this about gun violence in Colombia:
There have been more than 475,000 firearm-related deaths as a result of crime and conflict violence since 1979, averaging 17,600 per year, with most deaths concentrated in urban centres.- More than 80 per cent of all homicides are committed with firearms-with more than half of the variation in external death rates over time attributable to firearms.- Most weapons in circulation are illegal and unregistered. The number of legally and illegally held weapons (excluding the state security forces) is estimated between 2.3 million and 3.9 million, an ownership rate of 5.05 to 8.42 per 100 inhabitants. Official statistics report only 1.53 legally held firearms per 100 inhabitants, a low rate in comparison with other Latin American countries.- Illegal right-wing paramilitaries appear to have more modern and abundant weapons stocks than left-wing guerrillas. Paramilitaries are also party to a more lucrative and sustained source of funding.- Men suffer more than 90 percent of all gun deaths. More than one-third of all firearm deaths are concentrated among men aged 20-29, with more than 342,000 years of productive life lost from firearm deaths since 1985.
Colombia has long been known for widespread violence. There has been civil unrest, human rights violations, paramilitary groups running rampant, and war there for many years; the drug trade and weapons smuggling trade are alive and well. The fact that there are attempts to deal with the violence is heartening. Taking a pro-active stance by posting these signs sends a clear message- arms or love. Which is it? Guns are weapons of mass destruction in many countries- even our own where every day 8 children are killed by bullets and 32 Americans total are murdered by guns daily. The recent shootings at schools in Ohio and Washington state are evidence of this daily carnage. I wrote about them in previous posts.
It is too easy to sit back and ignore the problems of violence around the world, let alone in our own country. We know that we have a particular problem of gun violence and the proliferation of civilian owned guns matched by no other country ( more on this later). We know that we are doing little about the gun violence in our own country because of internal politics. But when our own politics are aiding and abetting the violence in one of our closest neighbors it's something to be ashamed of. Our own signs of the times are the photos and videos of parents coming to pick their kids up at the Chardon, Ohio High School not knowing if their child was one of the 5 shot. Our signs are the daily media stories about shootings in our communities. Common sense should push us to action. Instead, the powerful gun lobby is blocking attempts to deal with the Mexican violence. Maybe we need signs similar to the ones posted in Bogota to get the message across that we are not going to tolerate the violence right here at home. President Calderone has also shown us an example of how the problem of gun violence can be highlighted visually. Let's heed the signs and act.