Last week, Mexican President Felipe Calderon unveiled a large sign with the English message “No more weapons!” on a Mexican bridge facing El Paso, Texas. Mr. Calderon used the unveiling of this sign to call for additional gun control measures in the United States, including the reinstitution of a ban on modern sporting rifles. Ironically Mexico, which justifiably guards its sovereignty, seems to have no problem dictating to the United States what our domestic firearms laws should be.
While we respect the work of President Calderon to willingly take on his country’s powerful drug cartels, we continue to be disappointed that he, in the name of security, would urge our Congress to reinstitute a failed ban on so-called “assault weapons.”
Semi-automatic rifles, demonized as so-called “assault weapons,” are not machine guns but modern sporting rifles that are used every day by law-abiding Americans for the shooting sports, hunting and home protection. Since 2004, when the Clinton/Gore ‘assault weapons’ ban expired, modern sporting rifles have fast become one of the most popular types of firearms for law-abiding Americans to purchase. And according to a recent survey, nearly half the people buying modern sporting rifles are either current or retired members of the U.S. military or law enforcement.
The firearms that President Calderon would have the United States ban are functionally no different than any other semi-automatic civilian sporting firearm. They shoot only one shot per trigger pull, no spray firing as some allege, and use the same ammunition as other guns of the same caliber. What differentiates modern sporting rifles from other guns is cosmetic; for example, the type of stock on the firearm.
According to the Department of Justice, so-called “assault weapons” are rarely used in crimes (less than 2 percent). Furthermore, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has established that banning firearms and ammunition have no effect on crime levels.
It’s also worth noting that ATF statistics identify the average age of recovered firearms in Mexico (of U.S. origin) to be more than 15 years old, a clear indicator that these firearms are not straw purchased from the United States.
Moreover, it is well-documented that the drug cartels are illegally smuggling fully automatic firearms, grenades and other weapons into Mexico from South and Central America. Such items are not being purchased at retail firearms stores in the United States.
Here are some key facts that President Calderon should consider:
Fact: Only 12 percent of firearms recovered in Mexico are from the United States.
Fact: Firearms recovered in Mexico and successfully traced to the U.S. were originally sold at retail (after a background check) on average 15 years earlier.
Fact: Since the 2004 sunset of the failed Clinton gun ban on semi-automatic rifles (modern sporting rifles), crime in the U.S. has plummeted.
Fact: President Calderon’s gun-control sign sits in Juarez, ranked one of the most dangerous cities in the world. It faces El Paso, ranked one of the safest cities in the world.
We can all agree that there are serious crime problems in Mexico; however, sacrificing the constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans as a means of addressing this issue is neither an option nor a solution.
Lawrence G. Keane is the Senior Vice President and General Counsel, National Shooting Sports Foundation follow him at http://twitter.com/lkeane