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“What does the government expect people to do? Lower their little hands?” - Luciano Segura Jauregui of Armed Mexico
(LAS CRUCES, NM) - More Mexicans are acquiring arms to defend their families and property. According to a university researcher, the number of firearms legally possessed in Mexico increased 53 percent from 2009 to 2012, jumping from 2,033, 749 to 3,118, 592 guns.
Ernesto Villanueva, researcher for the National Autonomous University of Mexico’s Institute of Legal Research, based his findings on data from the Mexican Defense Ministry (Sedena), which is in charge of registering firearms. Villanueva and other experts point to a generalized feeling of insecurity as behind the surge in firearm registration. The three year period studied by Villanueva is considered one of the most violent in contemporary Mexican history.
According to the Switzerland-based Small Arms Survey, the total number of firearms in civilian hands stands at five times the legally registered arsenal, with an estimated 15 million Mexicans currently armed. In other words, a little more than one in seven Mexicans has a firearm.
Official institutions, too, are building up their arsenals. Sedena statistics cited in the Mexican press report that local police and investigative agencies spent at least $25 million on arms purchases last year. Heavily populated Mexico City led the pack with expenditures in the $2 million range, but even little Aguascalientes spent more than $1 million on guns for the cops.
As interest in owning firearms grows, so does discussion of the topic on the Internet. Besides the practical questions of gun ownership, the constitutional right to bear arms is emerging as a more focused issue of debate.
Mexico-based web pages dedicated to firearms include Mexico Armado (Armed Mexico), Libertad Armada (Armed Freedom) and ADA10Mexico (the Association in Defense of Article 10). An Internet forum for hunters, Armed Mexico’s registered users have soared from 20,000 to 100,000 since 2009, not counting an estimated 10-15,000 daily visitors, according to a spokesman.
Luciano Segura Jauregui of Armed Mexico said a feeling of defenseless at the hands of criminals is motivating people to arm themselves.
“What does the government expect people to do? Lower their little hands?” Segura Jauregui commented to the Mexican press. “It’s very convenient for the government to say, ‘denounce crime,’ but who are you going to make the complaint to? The same people who are bribed by the criminals?”
Although Article 10 of the Mexican Constitution, guarantees residents of the country “the right to possess arms in the home for security and legitimate defense,” an October 1971 constitutional reform reserves certain weapons to the armed forces while allowing the federal government regulatory authority in determining when, where, why and what residents can bear arms.
Some security industry representatives say restrictions and gaps in a 1972 federal firearms law complicate proper training in the use of guns. While the law requires permits for transporting guns, as well as regulating the manufacturing and commercialization of them, it does not mandate training.
“80 percent of gun owners don’t know how to use them,” said Cristian Jimenez, owner of the Ludus PMC shooting instruction firm.
Permits to carry weapons in public are difficult to obtain, with only 318 licenses out of 1,627 requests granted between 2008 and 2013. Brigadier General Adolfo Mendoza, general director of arms registration for Sedena, said it was up to his ministry’s judgment whether or not to grant such a permit.
“Many people are interested in arming, but few of them seemingly justify to Sedena the need to carry a gun,” Mendoza said.
In total, 3,140 Mexicans have the vaunted legal permission to carry weapons in public. Of the license holders, only 20 are women.
The difficulty in obtaining the paperwork to bear weapons outside the home is reportedly creating opportunities for scam artists to sell false permits. “It’s easier to win the lottery,” said one source.
Segura assessed the 1972 law as a politically-motivated one that was approved amid student protests and rising social movements.
“The state had a fear, or perhaps still does, that its citizens would be armed,” he said. “The (federal law) is not meant to inhibit delinquency, but to wear down the citizen who legally complies with his or her obligations.”
Sources: El Universal, April 2 and 3, 2014. Articles by Karla Casillas, Valentina Perez and Gabriela Gutierrez.
Frontera NorteSur: on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news Center for Latin American and Border Studies New Mexico State University Las Cruces, New Mexico
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