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by Mary Harris
, March 18, 2024

I called up Champe Barton from over at the Trace to talk about a totally new way to think about gun control. But honestly, I can’t shake the very first thing he told me—a fact that seems to explain just how hard it is to prevent gun violence in the first place: “If you want to buy a gun in Mexico, there’s one gun store, and it’s on an army base. There’s just one, in the entire country.”

I live in a country, the United States, where there are twice as many gun stores as there are post offices, so it kind of blows my mind that just across the border things work like this. To get a gun legally in Mexico? You go through months of background checks. You apply for a temporary permit. And then you go to that military base. When the L.A. Times visited a few years back, the store sold just 38 guns a day to civilians.

And all this is even more shocking when you consider the kind of news stories Americans are used to hearing about Mexico. Since 2010, more than 200,000 people have been killed by guns there. I asked Barton to explain that disconnect. “The biggest issue is just that there’s thousands of American guns that are crossing the border every year into Mexico,” he said. “It comes out to somewhere between 360,000 to 597,000 guns a year that come over the border.”

And Mexico is pissed—so pissed, in fact, that it’s taking American gunmakers to court. With this case, the Mexican government is arguing we should think about American gunmakers the same way we think about tobacco companies or opioid distributors—as an industry that really should know better. “This Mexico case was an example to me of a new, fresh attempt at getting at this problem,” Barton said.

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Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images