Welcome to Heeding Borderlands ~ on the US/Mexican Border
Religious Communities to Challenge Gun Trafficking that Afflicts Mexico
Religious communities and leaders are working with border activists and organizers working to reduce gun violence to create a campaign to impede the illegal flow of assault weapons into northern Mexico. Since 2006, Mexico has suffered more than 50,000 murders associated with the drug war, most carried out with firearms.
Dubbed “Borderlands Heeding God’s Call,” the campaign focuses on community education and ending the process of illegal “straw purchasing” in the southwestern United States. When gun dealers turn a blind eye to that practice, they are contributing to the huge numbers of military-grade weapons that flow across the border, and to the growing insecurity in communities in northern Mexico.
At thousands of gun dealers near the U.S.-Mexico border, an individual can go in and purchase 20 AK-47s, and walk out. That’s perfectly legal. The drug cartels in Mexico operate as militaries – some were trained by the United States as army special forces – and they want military weapons. According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, 87 percent of firearms seized by Mexican authorities and traced over the last five years originated in the United States.
Approximately 2,000 guns enter Mexico every day, according to the Mexico House of Deputies Justice Commission. Borderlands Heeding God’s Call was initiated by Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, Fellowship of Reconciliation, border activists, groups that have undertaken Heeding God’s Call efforts in cities in Pennsylvania and Maryland, and the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence. It is focusing initial attention in the Tucson and Phoenix areas, where dozens of dealers have sold guns to straw purchasers that were used in crimes in Mexico.
Project members will approach such dealers and urge them to agree to a ten-point code of conduct that, if implemented, will discourage straw purchases of weapons. The largest retail seller of guns nationally, Wal-Mart, has signed on to the code, which includes videotaping the point of sale, participation in a national computerized log of crime gun traces, and other reasonable measures.
We cannot expect border agents on either side of the border to stop gun smuggling. From the Rio Grande Valley in Texas alone, more than 21,000 trucks and cars cross over the border into Mexico every day, 365 days a year. In the context of a border that is structurally porous for goods going from the United States to Mexico, the insistence on a federally unregulated market for military weapons extendsinto Mexico the most radical interpretation of the U.S. constitutional provision to bear arms contained in the Second Amendment.
Yet Mexico has no provision comparable to the U.S. Second Amendment. It is illegal for Mexicans to own firearms, unless they are granted a very restricted license. So unless Mexicans become criminals, they cannot defend themselves using guns, even if such a strategy were sensible. The vast majority of Mexicans are thus at the mercy of militarily armed gunmen who, evidence shows, have no mercy at all. Mexico would experience less of this violence if there were a well regulated and fully enforced arms market on the U.S. side of the border.
A federal operation, “Fast and Furious,” sought to catch leaders of gun smuggling rings by “letting guns walk” from Arizona gun dealers in 2009 and 2010. Straw purchasers were irresponsibly allowed to purchase some 2,000 guns, with some ending up in the hands of Mexican cartels. Some people suggest that “Fast and Furious” shows that the government – not gun dealers – is responsible for the river of weapons flowing into Mexico. We say: It shows that our churches and communities, including gun dealers, must take responsibility for putting a stop to the trafficking in violent firepower from our cities and towns into Mexican communities. Our humanity and integrity depend on it.
Contact: Cesar Acosta, Borderlands Heeding God’s Call organizer, cacosta137 [at] gmail.com tel 520 954 0486