Gun control and immigration are related
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August 7, 2019
Following the murder of 21 people in a WalMart in El Paso this past weekend, a crime inspired in part by the anti-immigration right wing in this country, Trump saw an opportunity to get something done, and we know he likes to get stuff done. The idea was to finally get universal background checks passed in Congress by “marrying” that to immigration reform measures. In Trump’s mind this is a bargain, right. Democrats want gun control, Republicans want immigration “reform.” Trump’s “let’s make a deal” approach, predictably, offended many people. But let’s be clear: There is a relationship between gun control (or the lack of it) and immigration. Not the link Trump was making, but a link nevertheless.
The connection is simple: U.S. made guns are fueling the drug wars in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, and these are the places people are currently fleeing in large numbers. For example, consider this from The Economist:
A study of weapons found at crime scenes suggests that 70 percent of gun crimes in Mexico involve American-bought weapons. The share of homicides in Mexico involving a firearm grew from 16 percent in 1997 to 66 percent in 2017. That suggests around half of Mexico’s 33,000 murder victims last year were killed by a gun manufactured in the United States, which had 14,542 gun homicides in 2017. An American-made gun is more likely to be used in a murder in Mexico than at home.
And this from the New Yorker,
In the summer of 2009, a sixty-three-year-old professional bass fisherman from Florida named Hugh Crumpler III was arrested for selling guns illegally. For years, he’d been buying weapons, legally, at gun shows, and then reselling them to individuals from Latin America who wanted to smuggle the guns back to their home countries. Crumpler was what’s known as a “straw buyer.” “I developed a group of customers,” he said later, in an interview with Univision. “And it dawned on me one day that they were all Hondurans; and that they all seemed to want the same type of guns; and they all seemed to want more and more.” By the time he was caught, Crumpler had resold roughly a thousand guns, including Glocks and AR-15 assault rifles. He eventually agreed to coöperate with American authorities in exchange for a two-and-a-half-year prison sentence. According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, some of the guns Crumpler sold were used in crimes in Honduras, Puerto Rico, and Colombia, including in at least one homicide.
The Center for American Progress released a detailed study on the connection between lax gun laws in the United States and crime outside our borders:
From 2014 to 2016, across 15 countries in North America, Central America, and the Caribbean, 50,133 guns that originated in the United States were recovered as part of criminal investigations. Put another way, during this span, U.S.-sourced guns were used to commit crimes in nearby countries approximately once every 31 minutes.
Certainly, many of these U.S.-sourced crime guns were legally exported and were not diverted for criminal use until they crossed the border. The United States is a major manufacturer and a leading exporter of firearms, legally exporting an average of 298,000 guns each year. However, many of the same gaps and weaknesses in U.S. gun laws that contribute to illegal gun trafficking domestically likewise contribute to the illegal trafficking of guns from the United States to nearby nations.
The Center for American Progress identified several policy recommendations as part of this study, they include:
- Instituting universal background checks for gun purchases.
- Making gun trafficking and straw purchasing federal crimes.
- Requiring the reporting of multiple sales of long guns.
- Increasing access to international gun trafficking data.
- Rejecting efforts that weaken firearm export oversight.
In Haiti, the connection is even clearer. Almost 100 percent of guns collected at crime scenes are from the United States. This despite the fact that a small arms embargo was put in place nearly thirty years ago, following the first coup d’etat that deposed Aristide in 1991. It is probably the most meaningless embargo ever created - what is required is a special export license, and with the right connections, one can be had. Even without a license, weapons get shipped.
For example, earlier this year a gun shop owner based in Orlando was arrested for illegally shipping arms to Haiti. From the Miami Herald,
The owner of Global Dynasty Corps., LLC in Orlando, Junior Joseph is currently on trial in Fort Lauderdale, where government prosecutors say he and Jimy, whose own trial is scheduled to start next week, concealed 159 semi-automatic single-and double-barreled 12-gauge shotguns, five AR15-type rifles and two 9mm Glock 17 pistols inside the truck and illegally exported them to Haiti. Also hidden in the vehicle were tactical vests, police boots and 30,000 bullets including shells for the shotguns.
None of this is new. Following the second coup d’etat against Aristide in 2004, thousands of weapons were sent to Haiti - a transfer approved by then Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs, John Bolton. At least 2,000 people died in fighting, mostly concentrated in neighborhoods in Port au Prince in 2004 and 2005. The weapons were from the United States. Maxine Waters called for an investigation into the arms transfers - or at least some answers from Bolton. She didn’t get either. Bolton is not in prison, of course, he is back in the White House trying to start a war with Iran.
More recently, violence is again on the rise in Haiti. The context for the recent arrests for gun running becoming clearer. The most gruesome example, a massacre that occurred in La Saline in November of 2018. As reported in the Miami Herald,
During that period, Nov. 13-17, men, women and even children as young as 4 were shot to death, their bodies then fed to dogs and pigs. Women were raped and set on fire, as was a police officer, Juwon Durosier. The culprits: bandits tied to gang conflicts over control of a sprawling outdoor market where protection rackets are the norm, but also guns-for-hire by powerful politicians and well-heeled businessmen seeking to control votes in the run-up to upcoming legislative and mayoral elections.
So yes, there is a connection between gun control and immigration. The United States’ unique obsession with guns, a country with more guns than people, ripples out to impact the lives of others in neighboring countries where these guns get trafficked. Of course, the gangs that are part of this network of trafficking are themselves from the United States, a point too often lost in the immigration discussion as well. MS-13 started in Los Angeles, not San Salvador. And, the government officials in Haiti, Guatemala and Honduras fueling violence, are there by the grace of U.S. policymakers as well (and occasionally drug dealers). Simply put, the U.S. is the leading exporter of the tools of violence in the world.
And that has consequences.