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Tue Aug 13, 2019, 10:01 AM

Illegal border crossing: How U.S. guns wind up in Canada and Mexico


The U.S. gun debate is usually framed by what happens within U.S. borders. But the effects of easy access to guns don't end where Canada and Mexico begin.

Guns bought from vendors in the United States and then smuggled illegally abroad are a fact of life across the Americas. But the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, this month have emboldened foreign stances against lax U.S. gun laws and shifted conversations about what that means for crime and safety north and south of the U.S. border.

Weaker gun regulations in the U.S. have long undermined Canada’s much stricter rules, as guns get trafficked north. The U.S. massacres came the same weekend as 17 shootings in 14 different incidents across Toronto. Border Security Minister Bill Blair said Canada could reduce violence with more money toward stopping guns from the U.S., which he called “the greatest arsenal in the world.”

Some 70% of guns recovered by law enforcement in Mexico and sent to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) between 2011 and 2016 were originally purchased from a licensed U.S. dealer. And of course, more than a third of those killed were Mexican citizens – prompting a withering response from Mexico.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador urged U.S. leaders to reflect upon the “indiscriminate sale of guns.” Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard went further, threatening to open up a terrorist probe across the border.

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