During his recent summit meeting in Washington with President Obama, Mexican President Felipe Calderon again pressed the United States to tighten its restrictions on firearms. It has become an article of faith in Mexico—and among many pundits in this country—that lax U.S. gun laws are responsible for the carnage perpetrated by the Mexican drug cartels. Calderon has asserted: “If you look carefully, you will notice that the violence in Mexico started to grow a couple of years before I took office in 2006. This coincides, at least, with the lifting of the assault weapons ban in 2004.”
Mexican officials repeatedly insist that 90 percent of the weapons captured from drug gangs originate in the United States. And either explicitly or implicitly, those officials contend that the illicit weapons come from gun shops or gun shows, primarily in the southwestern states. Such allegations oversimplify a complex situation and serve as a scapegoat for the Mexican government’s own failure to stem the tide of killings in that country’s drug wars.