Gun control is one way the government is trying to combat the rising murder rate. But as violence soars, more Mexicans are exercising their right to bear arms
CGTN’s Alasdair Baverstock reports from Mexico City.
Guillermo Azoños, a resident of Mexico City, has decided to buy a gun. He doesn’t live in a dangerous part of the capital, but nevertheless says he’s buying the gun to protect his family.
“I have three, small children and I want them to be protected,” Azoños said.
“The violence in Mexico has grown a lot, and there’s nothing better than having protection inside the home,” he said. “I’m also going to practice with it, in order to know how to use it properly, and be able to defend myself in the future, which we hope will never happen.”
Guillermo bought his weapon in a shop run by the Mexican army, located in the heart of a heavily-guarded military base.
Like the United States, Mexico’s constitution offers its citizens the right to bear arms. Access, though, is another story. While the U.S. has some 67,000 licensed firearms dealer, it’s different in Mexico. A government-operated store just outside Mexico City is the only place where you can legally purchase a gun.
Mexico’s federal gun control statute dates back to 1972. It requires rigorous background checks, long wait-periods, and ultimately, leaves it all up to the government to determine the “cases, conditions, requirements and places,” of the guns which it sells to the public.
Colonel Eduardo Tellez is the military official in command at the shop.
“Firearms are not interchangeable. They must always have an owner, and it’s the job of the national defense forces to be able to control and know how many guns are legally in the country,” he said. “Even if the gun changes owners, we never lose track of it.”
Despite the rigorous gun ownership policy in Mexico, the country has a problem with illegal firearms.
Violence in Mexico hit record levels in 2017, with more than 29,000 murders. Government officials estimate that for every gun sold legally in Mexico, 15 are smuggled in illegally from the United States.
It’s an issue that has left some Mexicans turning to their own means of defense.
“I know that the law permits me, within my own home, to use it in the defense of my family,” said Guillermo, as he took his pistol away with him.
“Given how easily criminals have access to firearms with no registration, it’s dangerous. So, the more people who have protection, the more the criminals will think before taking action,” he said.
Having one gun store in the country might seem like a practical way to control the spread of weapons. However, some buyers say it might be having the opposite effect, by encouraging people to buy firearms from the U.S. on the black market.