By Aram Barra
Mexican Times, May 23, 2018
Yesterday, May 22, more than 50 Latin American citizen organizations and over a hundred security experts sent a public letter to the students in the United States who have been organizing in recent weeks to demand gun control. The letter, besides expressing solidarity, makes some important proposals on the issue.
As I have said before, firearm-related violence is avoidable. Though there may be no single simple solution to reduce gun violence, there are several policies that would contribute significantly to that end and they can be instituted now. Here are ten ideas, taken from the groups and experts who signed the letter, for general debate:
First, there must be a ban on the production and sale for civilian use of semi-automatic or assault weapons in the United States, as well as high-capacity magazines and high-caliber ammunition. As we know, more than half of the weapons recovered in crime scenes in Mexico are from the United States. Of those, a large number are semi-automatic rifles.
Second, we should advocate to permit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to resume research of gun violence, with an integrated, public health approach. Second Amendment defenders’ foolishness is so absurd that even today practicing science is not allowed.
Third, it is urgent to require universal legal and medical background checks for all gun sales in the United States, prioritizing private transactions such as sales on the internet, in private homes, and at gun shows.
Fourth, Congress should make gun purchases for a third person (“straw purchases”) a federal crime. At the same time, as was discussed in the second presidential candidate debate in Mexico, it is important to strengthen Mexico’s northern border to ensure that U.S. criminal networks do not continue arming crime south of the border.
Fifth, support the design and implementation of evidence-based local programs for the prevention and mitigation of gun-related violence. Unlike what the Peña Nieto government has done recently, it is important to channel resources for the social prevention of crime, including through disarmament programs for the voluntary return and buy-back of guns. We must take apart the culture of warfare in which the new generation is growing up.
Sixth, it is time to put a real end to all domestic abusers through better coordination of data between police departments, social services, non-profit organizations, and systems for on-line background checks, disarming those who have violent pasts. Guns should not been in the hands of those whom we know have a history of violence.
Seventh, it is necessary to ensure that protection orders to disarm persons who demonstrate extreme risks of violence are available in all of the United States. In his demagogy to to win over the most conservative sectors, Donald Trump seeks to reduce all barriers to the entrance of guns into the market. Latin America should demand change, as poor regulation of guns affects the our countries’ security.
Eighth, we should design and promote the implementation of specific mechanisms and technology aimed at the interdiction of illegal flows of firearms, especially on the U.S.-Mexico border, as well as on the borders between Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. In these countries, more than 80% of homicides are committed with firearms. Reducing the availability of guns, as well as controlling the gun trade (both legal and illegal) to the south of the United States should be a priority.
Ninth, it is critical to establish or improve legal weapon registries in all our countries, including mechanisms to facilitate transparency and accountability in legal transfers to police and other security agencies. In the judicial investigation of the Ayotzinapa case, for example, it was disclosed that two rifles registered to local police were found at the crime scene. This should have implications for the military, which has the power to transfer guns to police forces. Why has the military not followed up on gun possession by Mexican police forces?
Tenth, it is urgent to suspend gun exports to military and police end users in Mexico for which there is evidence of links to organized crime or that have violated human rights. In recent years, both United Nations mechanisms and the Inter-American Convention Against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Traffic in Firearms, Munitions, Explosives, and Other Related Materials include provisions that international weapons dealers may not foment violence that undermines stability. The United States should abide by these agreements and it is our obligation to demand it.
There you have ten commandments – proposals put forward by an important group of Latin Americans aware of the importance of curtailing violence in our countries. I express my solidarity with the schoolmates and family members of the youth killed in repeated massacres in U.S. schools. We feel the pain of this violence because we also suffer it every day. Their demand for better gun control is also our demand for societies living with peace and citizen security.