Yes, Mexico Has a 2nd Amendment – Part 1: Access to Guns


American news headlines are again announcing the possibility of banning certain types of guns, amending the Second Amendment, and even a few demands for repeal of the Second Amendment. Gun enthusiast-oriented forums and organizations are offering plenty of reactive flap, but few are asking what our nation would look like if these measures are implemented. We need only look south to see one likely possibility.

The Right to Keep and Bear – was changed

Not many folks are aware that Mexican citizens have their own version of the Second Amendment enshrined in their country’s Constitution. In 1876, that law’s language was much like the American version, including the right to keep and bear arms. In 1971, an amendment removed the “bear” verb. Now the meaning of this “right” is curation, not use.

Access to Guns
Shoppers cannot touch the goods before purchase. Much documentation and an appointment are required to enter the store. (Daily Mail photo)

An investigative report by CBS explored legal, civilian gun ownership in modern Mexico. This, the most recent of many references, inspired this two-part series with the purpose of motivating readers to answer some questions for themselves and their communities.

The access concept

Before heading south of the border, let’s venture briefly into one aspect of anti-gun logic: access. A favorite concept used by public health advocates, it’s now being applied to firearms in policy discussions. “Guns are the new cigarettes” for example, is an argument to push for controls similar to the ones seen on tobacco into the gun market. If this sector of the anti-gun lobby gets its way, expect to see things like increased minimum age to buy and use guns, increased penalties for minimum-wage counter workers who fail to complete some aspect of increasingly complex transfer and sales documentation, penalties for owners of facilities when an injurious or fatal unintended discharged occurs, increased taxes on guns, ammunition, and everything associated with shooting, and insurance policies (personal, health, and business) that penalize gun ownership. Expect to see geographic restrictions on the number of gun vendors in a given area—an access reduction strategy known as decreasing outlet density.

The logic of decreasing access is to make it sufficiently risky and miserable to sell guns and ammunition that vendors will simply give up or pay such high taxes that they’re seen as worth tolerating, from a political standpoint. Whether firearm users who break the law are penalized is left for interpretation outside of the access concept.

Access to Guns
A Mexican citizen closing the deal to obtain a new shotgun. (Daily Mail photo)

Access strategies tend to remove the middle class of ownership from a product, resulting in two classes of fans—illegal users, often of lower economic status, and an elitist users.  Compare the grape-flavored electronic cigarette hanging on the rack at the local Seven Eleven versus the prestige associated with a Cuban cigar.

Watch and learn

An observation of our southern neighbor is to envision one realistic possibility of the effects of reduced access in the US. What follows is information about how Mexico has implemented this strategy nationwide, plus questions to ponder.

Access to Guns
Mexico’s government-run gun store is not allowed to advertise. (Daily Mail photo)

Mexico has only one gun store, the Dirección de Comercialización de Armamento y Municiones, or Directorate of Arms and Munitions Sales. It’s located on a Mexico City military base, and is heavily guarded.

  1. Would you be willing and able to travel perhaps over 1,000 miles to procure a single gun and ammo?

A search of airfares, using the international airport in once-peaceful Juarez, shows $221 USD as the least expensive way to get to and from Mexico City. That doesn’t count, of course, ground travel, lodging, or other expenses that increase the total cost of the firearm.

  1. How much effort are you willing to put into obtaining the documents needed to purchase a gun?

Citizens must provide seven forms of documentation, including a birth certificate, a letter confirming employment, proof of a clean criminal record from the attorney general’s office in the applicant’s home state, a utility bill with current address, a copy of a government-issued ID and a federal social security number–just to apply to purchase a gun. Understand, the “store” is simply the place where one picks up a firearm that was previously requested and paid for. There’s no option to handle before purchase, and browsing is through glass cases under electronic and live, armed military surveillance.

Hunters who are purchasing a shotgun or rifle must provide proof of membership in a federally-registered hunting club, and provide the government with annual proof of membership for themselves as well as proof of the club’s good standing with the government.

  1. Are you willing to purchase a handgun that’s legal to carry on your real property and nowhere else?

Concealed carry permits allegedly exist in Mexico, though getting them approved is a rarity. A feature by the Daily Mail includes an interview with a man who shoots recreationally and applied for a CCL. “’If I put my papers in… they’re going to take about three to four, even six months, and then send me a letter telling me that it’s the obligation of the state to provide security for all people in Mexico, so your permit is denied.” The colonel in charge of the store stated he prefers that civilians not buy guns at all, but rely on state-provided security.

Semi-autos larger than .380 caliber may not be possessed by civilians. Revolvers up to .357 Magnum are apparently permitted, but .38 is the only available ammunition.

There are sporting events in which gun owners may compete with registered handguns. Transporting those guns on Mexico’s roads requires annual licensure.

  1. Would you trust the store if you can locate no information on it other than word of mouth and a very dry state-run website?

Advertising of or by the Directorate is illegal. While web-based downloading of forms may seem convenient to many, I can attest from experience as an instructor that web-only systems can be exclusionary to many elderly people who aren’t comfortable using computers. This segment of the population is often most in need of a firearm as a force equalizer.

This week’s conclusion

This is the face of “reduced access to guns,” successfully implemented. The well-known consequence is a substantial black market, fed from countries around the globe, though Mexican leaders blame the US. Legal procurement of a firearm in Mexico has been covered here, however lightly. Many more limitations—like the reloading licensure process–can be found online.

Coming up

The next installment of this two-part series will provide some views of life as a peaceful (or wanting to be peaceful) Mexican citizen, based on grassroots media and personal stories related to me by friends and associates here in the southwestern US.

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