By Paul Helmke
Last month 15 armed men stormed into the home of Edelmiro Cavasos, the newly-elected and well-liked mayor of the tourist town of Santiago, Mexico, and kidnapped him. Days later, his body was found on the side of a road outside the town of Monterrey.
Cavasos is the third Mexican mayor in just a few weeks to have been murdered by gun-toting drug traffickers, according to government officials. He’s one of 28,000 Mexicans who have died over the past four years in drug-gang-fueled violence – violence that has some of its roots in the weak gun laws of the United States.
The Obama administration has begun to speak about Mexican gang violence and acknowledge that the problem warrants more of our attention. On Wednesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned that Mexico’s drug-trafficking gangs were starting to resemble an insurgency, similar to the elements that corrupted Colombia.
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She applauded Mexican President Felipe Calderon for his “courage and commitment” to rooting out the druglords, and hinted that greater military cooperation between the U.S., Mexico and Central American countries might be a more effective way to crack down on the traffickers and their violence.
But what Secretary Clinton and President Obama have neglected to say is more noteworthy. Neither the president nor the secretary has mentioned the importance of the U.S. restricting assault weapons or requiring Brady criminal background checks for all gun purchases at gun shows.
Violence in Mexico has increased since Congress allowed the federal assault weapons ban to expire in 2004. And a study just released by the Woodrow Wilson Center and the University of San Diego matches Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence reports, which confirm that a significant number of the guns used in Mexican drug crimes come from America.
A Sunday Washington Post editorial highlighted this report that said “at least 62,800 of the more than 80,000 firearms confiscated by Mexican authorities from December 2006 to February 2010 came from the United States. …The top two firearms for the gangs are assault rifles: Romanian-made AK-47s and clones of the Bushmaster AR-15.”
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The editorial noted also that “Just one gun store in Houston supplied 339 assault weapons, rifles and pistols to cartel buyers in just 15 months — which were responsible for the deaths of 18 Mexican law enforcement officers and civilians.”
President Obama has not taken steps to shut down the gun-trafficking pipelines in the United States that are helping the cartels outgun Mexican police and federal agents and he still has not nominated a director for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).
Without a chief, the top federal agency in charge of stemming the tide of illegal guns that circulate inside and outside of our borders can’t help but be weaker and less effective, making Americans and Mexicans less safe.
It’s good to see the White House begin to acknowledge the seriousness of the drug gang violence in Mexico – especially in the cities and towns that border the United States – and which some observers consider a national security threat. But as long as our government officials fail to adopt, strengthen, and enforce laws that could help protect brave men like Edelmiro Cavasos, along with countless everyday Americans, the risks increase for all of us.