On the heels of an especially violent summer south of the border, well-known Mexican movie star Diego Luna came to Washington, D.C. in September, not as an actor, but as an advocate for the growing international campaign Stop Gun Smuggling: 3 Things President Obama CAN Do. Luna met with policymakers to promote measures that could curb the flow of assault weapons from the United States into Mexico, saving thousands of Mexican lives, while making U.S. communities safer. Some estimates suggest that as many as 2,000 guns are smuggled across the U.S. border into Mexico every day, and in Diego’s own words:
These guns are behind the violence that has left thousands of families mourning. The campaign asks for three small, timely actions that could have a big impact in Mexico as well as the United States. It’s in our hands to do something, and a good first step is signing this petition.
Check out a video of Diego backing the campaign:
The Stop Gun Smuggling campaign is the strongest show of bi-national pressure to curtail gun trafficking into Mexico since violence levels began to climb in 2006. Some 35,000 people have signed the petition to President Obama (on two distinct petition sites), including a broad coalition of faith, anti-gun violence, and human rights groups in the United States and Mexico. To sign the petition, click here.
The southward flow of firearms is a longstanding, unchecked problem that has fueled crippling violence in Mexico and led to some 50,000 dead in five years. This past June, a congressional report noted that a staggering 70% of the weapons seized in Mexico in 2009 and 2010—and submitted for tracing— originated in the United States, overwhelmingly from Southwest border states. It’s become all too clear that weapons acquired in the United States are a boon for criminal organizations, and increasingly destructive to communities on both sides of the border.
In response to this tidal wave of violence throughout Mexico, a diverse civil society movement has emerged, unified in their call for an end to the bloodshed. Its leaders have identified stopping the illegal flow of guns from the United States into Mexico as critical to curbing the violence and, in early June, initiated a petition urging President Obama to:
• Ban the importation of all assault weapons to the United States;
• Require gun dealers to report to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) the sale of multiple assault rifles;
• Strengthen the ATF in regions of the U.S. that supply the bulk of the weapons smuggled into Mexico.
In July, the Obama administration approved a new reporting rule requiring firearms dealers in southwest border states to report to the ATF the multiple sales of assault rifles to the same individual over a five-day period. The campaign scored its first victory, but continues to press for effective implementation of the new rule and action on the other two demands.
In August, acclaimed Mexican poet Javier Sicilia joined Diego Luna in signing the petition in Mexico City. Sicilia has a deeply personal reason to stop gun trafficking into Mexico: in late March, his 24-year-old son, Juan Francisco, was coldly murdered, allegedly by members of the South Pacific cartel. Following his son’s death, Sicilia called for nationwide demonstrations to denounce the violence, and has since dedicated himself to leading a movement bent on opposing both President Calderón’s militarized campaign against organized crime and brutal drug cartel atrocities. A central focus of the movement is achieving justice for victims of violence.
But to do so, they must first refute the government’s shameful claim that the overwhelming majority of those slain in the “drug war” are linked to organized crime. In September, Javier Sicilia led the Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity to the south of Mexico, gathering testimonies from victims of Mexico’s violence along the way. During a stop in Xalapa, Caravan participants met with the family of Joaquín Figueroa, a mechanic and father of three, who was reportedly taken by police on June 17th and was later found tortured and killed. Over the 4,300 miles it has traveled since early May, the Caravan has documented 521 cases of violence, many mirroring the story of Joaquín, involving abuses by authorities, or the targeting of innocent civilians by organized crime.
The “drug war” in Mexico, and the U.S. guns that fight it, are “tearing apart the fabric of the nation,” as Javier Sicilia eloquently penned in his April open letter to the Mexico’s “politicians and criminals.” In that same letter, Sicilia calls on the Mexican people to pour “into the streets: because we do not want one more child, one more son, assassinated." But to stop the violence and ensure not one more child is gunned down, we must keep U.S. guns off Mexico’s streets.