By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
There are many parts of the U.S. Constitution that Mexico would do well to model its own magna carta after.
The Second Amendment is not one of them.
The heavily debated U.S. constitutional provision that allows for civilians to “keep and bear arms” – part of the 10-amendment Bill of Rights ratified by the U.S. Congress in 1791 – has spurred crucial political divisions, led to the creation of the almighty National Rifle Association (NRA) and its authoritarian lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA), and, at least in the eyes of many U.S. citizens, given birth to a national firearm crisis that has led to more than 40,000 gun deaths 2018.
According to the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, there are today more than 393 million civilian-owned firearms in the United States, enough for every man, woman and child to own a gun and still have 67 million weapons left over.
The United States has the dubious distinction of being the world’s largest arsenal of privately owned guns, accounting for more than 46 percent of the entire global stock of 857 million civilian firearms, even though Americans make up less than 4 percent of the world’s populations.
With an estimated 1.2 guns for every citizen, the firearm ownership rate in the United States is double that of the next-highest nation, Yemen, with just .5 guns per person.
The end product is a tragic loss of human life, both intentional and unintentional.
Attacks at schools and other public venues have become so commonplace in the United States that, in many instances, they no longer merit front-page coverage.
In 2018, there were 23 reported incidences of school shootings (with 113 people – mostly students and teachers – killed), a figure which works out to a shooting every eight school days.
Easy access to firearms was instrumental in the Las Vegas massacre by lone gunman Stephen Paddock from the Mandalay Bay Resort hotel in October 2017 (death toll: 58), the Pulse nightclub slaughter in June 2016 (death toll: 49), the Sandy Hook Elementary School bloodbath in December 2012 (27 dead, mostly children between the ages of six and seven), and, more recently, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida in February 2018.
The list goes on and on, and the urban murder rate in every single U.S. state has increased dramatically in the last five years, in some cases by as much as 113 percent.
The simple fact of the matter is, more guns means more murders, more armed assaults and more accidental firearm deaths.
A 2013 study by the American Journal of Public Health clearly showed that the states with the highest per capita gun ownership were also the states with the highest number of firearm-related homicides.
And that old defense that civilian gun ownership offers personal safety has also been debunked by an FBI report issued in 2015, during which there were 268 “justifiable homicides” by citizens “protecting” their homes from intruders, compared to 489 “unintentional firearms deaths” resulting from civilian accidents with guns in the house. About a quarter of those killed in these unintentional deaths were of children.
The U.S. Second Amendment was born out of fear by war-weary civilians after a bloody Revolutionary War who were afraid that their new government might try to oppress its citizenry through military might, or would be unable to muster enough martial strength to resist an invading army.
That, as many opponents of the amendment now point out, is not a realistic possibility in modern U.S. society.
Nor is it a realistic possibility in Mexico.
Violent crime is rampant in Mexico.
According to the Executive Secretariat of the National Public Safety Protection System (SESNSP), last year, there were 33,341 homicides in Mexico (up more than 15 percent from 2017), and the figures so far for 2019 are even more alarming.
The first two months of the year, the number of murders shot up by 14 percent compared to 2018, and the incidence of armed kidnappings went up by even more.
Since President Andrés Manuel López Obrador first took office in December of last year, at least six journalists have been murdered.
All of which begs the question: Why has Mexico’s new, left-leaning Congress of pro-AMLO deputies and senators included in their bill to create a National Guard law to regulate the use of force and monitor detentions, a provision that would allow civilians the right to have firearms in their homes for self- defense and security purposes?
For decades, Mexico has been desperately trying to cull the influx of illegal weapons from the United States, weapons that have fueled a vicious drug war that has taken the lives of at least 170,000 people.
Legalizing home ownership of handguns will only increase the number of firearm-related deaths.
Parts of Mexico are already a lawless no-man’s-land bedlam controlled by warring drug cartels and other criminal organizations.
Adding more guns to the mix will only intensify the violence.
It is the government’s job to defend the public – not through the legalization of a firearm free-for-all, where he who has the biggest gun or he who shoots first determines the state of “justice,” but through a legitimate armed military and/or police force that intervenes to prevent acts of violence.
That is what the new National Guard is supposed to do.
It is only through the reduction of guns – not an increase in their number – and a strong state-run security system that Mexico can begin to weave the fragile textile of national peace and stability in a country that has seen the very fabric of its identity frayed by the inundation of firearms and unrestrained violence.
Mexico does not need more guns in the hands of private individuals.