The facts. The production and sale of fire arms is not only legal in the US, but a profitable industry which provides some 58,344 businesses with a steady and comfortable income. Coincidentally, 15% of those businesses are located along the border with Mexico. Across the border, gun shops are scarce – only one in the whole of Mexico City, one of the world’s most populous metropolitan areas. Since 2006, over 60,000 people have been killed in Mexico; the vast majority by the use of fire arms. According the US Department of Justice, 70% of the 94,000 guns recovered from cartels between 2006 and 2012 were produced in the US.
A pattern. These are not just numbers; they are a reflection of something being slightly off. While the US produces weapons, and their sale accrues to the national income, attention is shifted away from who exactly is on the other side of the transaction: who is buying (and using) these weapons? And how did they get there? The fact that the right to own guns is often seen as a fundamental right in the US, coupled with the sheer size of the industry in terms of its profit, which is in the vicinity of $75 billion, renders these questions unimportant and irrelevant in the eyes of many American citizens and policy makers.
What can be done about this? It is a matter of correctly formulating regulation which will effectively limit and control the purchasing of weapons and their movement across borders. A first step towards this goal was put into writing in the ATT, adopted by the UN in April and currently in the midst of ratification processes in dozens of member states. And here a question arises: will the US ratify the ATT, and subsequently finally reform its domestic legislation in order to stop the damage caused to Mexico by unchecked arms trade? One can only hope, and wait.
– Clara del Campo is an MSc Violence, Conflict & Development student at SOAS, University of London