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Report links US gun laws to rise in violence in Mexico

December 19, 2012

assault rifles

While last week’s horrific massacre in Connecticut has reignited the debate over the right to bear arms in the United States, a recent report suggests Mexicans are also paying the price for their northern neighbors’ lax gun-control laws.

In August, the Social Science Research Network published a study entitled “Cross-Border Spillover: U.S. Gun Laws and Violence in Mexico,” examining how the 2004 expiration of the U.S. Federal Assault Weapons Ban (FAWB) has impacted security in Mexico.

Signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994, the FAWB prohibited the sale of a range of military-style automatic and semi-automatic firearms across the United States. It was allowed to expire a decade later by the George W. Bush administration, with subsequent efforts to reinstate the ban having proved fruitless.

“Our estimates suggest that the U.S. policy change caused at least 239 additional deaths annually in municipios near the border during [the] post-2004 period,” concluded Arindrajit Dubey, from the University of Massachusetts’ economics department, and Oeindrila Dubez and Omar Garcia-Ponce, both from New York University’s politics department.

They reached these conclusions after examining the number of fatal shootings in northern Mexico in which assault weapons were used for the two years before the FAWB expired and the two years that followed. The findings are the result of extensive research and sophisticated logarithms, taking into account the impact of independent variables.

“The results are robust to controls for drug trafficking, policing, unauthorized immigration, and economic conditions in U.S. border ports, as well as drug eradication, military enforcement, and trends in income and education in Mexican municipios,” they explained. “Our findings suggest that U.S. gun laws have exerted an unanticipated spillover on gun supply in Mexico, and this increase in arms has fueled rising violence south of the border.”

With assault weapons banned across Mexico, the expiration of the FAWB suddenly made it much easier for drug gangs to purchase powerful guns across the border in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas (California has maintained its own state ban on assault weapons).

In light of their findings, the academics advised that “stricter control of guns in the U.S. could help curb rising violence in Mexico,” later adding, “our paper holds a broader implication, as it provides evidence of a positive relationship between guns and violent crime.”

With the elementary school shooting brutally illustrating this point, stricter gun laws are now back on the political agenda in the United States. Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein announced this week that she will introduce legislation to reinstate the FAWB when Congress meets in the new year, with President Barack Obama also pledging to support the bill on Wednesday.

Mexico’s former President Felipe Calderon was quick to welcome the news. “In 2004 the ‘Assault Weapons Ban’ expired in the U.S. It is one of the causes of the violence in the region. Senator Feinstein is proposing to reinstate it,” Calderon wrote on Twitter Tuesday night. “Well done Senator Feinstein for presenting an initiative restricting the sale of assault weapons. [It will be] good for the U.S. [and] good for Mexico.”

To read the full academic report, visit and search “gun laws Mexico.”

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