A new report from the gun control advocates at the Center for American Progress is making headlines recently. The report argues that U.S. guns are to blame for violence in other countries. Not Mexican gangs or drug cartels, rather, the legal purchase of firearms, as protected by the Constitution, is to blame for the societal problems of our neighbors. This isn’t a new argument and one that NSSF and others have debunked over the years.
Without even going into the issues with the report itself, the very premise raises the question of why Canada doesn’t face the same problems as Mexico, if sharing a border with the United States is the problem. Or why thousands of people every year are desperate to immigrate to our country to escape the violence in their nations.
The authors conveniently ignore the fact that the U.S. export controls are the gold standard worldwide. It’s a complicated system, but it boils down to a simple fact: U.S. gun makers are not allowed to export commercial firearms into Mexico. With State Department approval, some transactions with the country’s military and law enforcement branches are permissible, but no guns are being legally sold into the hands of gangs.
There is no question that the violence in Mexico is of concern to us all. But the policies prescribed by the report miss the mark in terms of effectiveness. Perhaps the report’s actual purpose is to be a vehicle for the same, failed gun control proposals, rather than an actual analysis of the situation and potential ways to help address the violence in some Central American countries.
Below we take a look at each policy that the report’s authors term “solutions.”
- “Instituting universal background checks for gun purchases”
- All federally licensed firearms retailers are required by federal law to run an FBI background check before any firearm is sold. This remains true whether the sale is through a brick-and-mortar store, on a website, or at a gun show. Unsurprisingly, these are not places where criminals obtain guns. They rely on the black market, theft and family/friends to illegally obtain firearms. There is no evidence that this will change if background checks are required for private party transfers. Criminals will continue to break the law. And, there is no evidence that universal background checks will have any impact on violence in Mexico, which is fueled by drug cartels.
- The current background check system is only as good as the records that are included. That’s why the NSSF launched in 2013 the FixNICS® initiative, which has spurred legislation in 16 states to ensure prohibiting records are submitted by states to the federal database. NSSF has refocused the initiative on the federal level in recent months and remains dedicated to making sure the checks are complete and those who are prohibited from purchasing a firearm are not allowed to do so. We support the bipartisan FixNICS legislation that has already passed the House and has been introduced in the Senate by Sen. Cornyn.
- “Making gun trafficking and straw purchasing federal crimes”
- This is an easy one. They already are against the law. The issue here is not enacting more laws to ban already-illegal activities, the issue is whether the laws are being enforced. Under the Obama Administration, they were not enforced. Under Trump, we already see a new commitment to prosecuting gun crimes. Of course, the firearms and ammunition industry doesn’t just rely on the government to address these crimes. NSSF continues to build on our long-standing anti-straw purchasing program, “Don’t Lie for the Other Guy.” This program, which is 100 percent funded by the industry and run in cooperation with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, helps to educate firearms retailers to be better able to identify and deter illegal straw purchases and to raise public awareness that straw purchasing is a serious crime.
- Requiring the reporting of multiple sales of long guns
- Again, this is already required for states along the Southwest border. Since 2010, ATF has imposed this largely ineffective and often counterproductive practice on retailers.
- Increasing access to international gun trafficking data.
- Okay, they want more detailed data for reports such as this one to blame the Second Amendment for the violent behavior of criminals around the world. Surely ATF’s scarce resources would be better used to catch the bad guys, right? And, foreign law enforcement can already obtain trace data from ATF.
- Rejecting efforts that weaken firearm export oversight
- Saving the best for last, the authors argue that refusing to finish the Obama Administration’s Export Control Reform initiative (ECR) would somehow help with crime in Mexico and Central America. False. As NSSF has said before, “This initiative will improve our nation’s ability to compete in the global marketplace for commercial and sporting firearms and ammunition without impairing national security. Military firearms, which are generally fully-automatic, are not affected. The proposal would reform an onerous export process that has caused U.S. manufacturers to lose the ability to compete for contracts, even as it has required non-exporting companies to nonetheless register as exporters and pay an exorbitant annual fee. The truth is, moving export licensing of sporting and commercial firearms to the Commerce Department from the State Department would increase oversight, not decrease it. Even the professionals in the Obama administration’s State and Commerce Departments were in favor of completing the reforms, but they were held up for purely political reasons, our industry being the only one singled out in this manner. We salute the Trump administration for moving forward and urge that there be no further delay on these reforms that will improve America’s competitiveness and support manufacturing jobs.”
The report does acknowledge the drivers of violence in Mexico and Central America, noting, “Much of this violence stems from gang-related drug trafficking, which, coupled with corrupt government institutions, income inequality, impunity for wrongdoers, and a recent history of violent conflict, has destabilized the entire region.” Rather than tossing around gun control proposals that would have no impact on criminal activity here or abroad, perhaps the Center for American Progress should do some research on how to address what they agree are the root of the region’s problems. Making our gun control laws look more like Mexico’s will not fix Mexico’s societal ills. This “think tank” needs more “think” and less knee-jerk reactions.