Another month, another record number of murders in Mexico. For the first nine months of 2019, Mexico had 25,890 murders—almost six times as many murders per 100,000 people as in the U.S. Does Mexico need stricter gun control?
No. Its gun laws are among the least permissive in the world. For decades Mexico has had only one gun store in the entire country, a military-run establishment in Mexico City. The store’s prices are very expensive, and the most powerful rifle that you can buy there is a .22 caliber. There’s no “gun-show loophole”—any person-to-person firearm transfers are illegal without an “extraordinary” permit that never seems to be issued. One may sell a gun only to the government, and then the government has to decide to sell it to someone else.
Getting permission to purchase a gun is a feat in itself. Background checks take six months to complete and require fingerprints and an evaluation of the buyer’s employment history. Only 1% of Mexicans possess a license to own a firearm. When I testified before the Mexican Senate a few years ago, members of the chamber, who have faced death threats, told me that even they found it impossible to get a concealed-handgun permit.
It wasn’t always this way. Mexicans had a right to own guns until 1971, when the constitution was amended to give the federal government total control over firearm access. In 1972 the government passed strict gun-control measures. Now Mexicans can’t transport guns outside their homes without a permit from the Secretariat of National Defense—even if the gun is lawfully registered, unloaded, in a locked container, and going from one residence to another.