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Tijuana Police Chief Links Mexico’s Rising Homicides To US Gun Laws

Photo by Jean Guerrero

Tijuana's police chief Marco Antonio Sotomayor sits in his police department, June 14, 2017.

Tijuana’s police chief said rising violence in the border region is linked to U.S. gun laws and weapons smuggling, and he is urging the U.S. to take responsibility.

Tijuana’s police chief told KPBS the U.S. should take responsibility for its role in Mexico's rising violence, which he links to U.S. gun smuggling and lax gun laws.

Statistics from the U.S. Government Accountability Office show 70 percent of weapons seized at crime scenes in Mexico were traced to the U.S., particularly to the border states of California, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.

“I urge the U.S. to help us by better controlling gun sales and stopping these guns from illegally crossing the border. Because at the end of the day, that’s what’s provoking the violence we have in this city," said Tijuana's Police Chief Marco Antonio Sotomayor.

Gun sales are heavily restricted in Mexico. But so far this year, Tijuana police have seized more than 350 firearms in connection with homicides and other crimes. Sotomayor said most of the guns used to kill, kidnap and rob people in Mexico come from the U.S.

"Just as the economy of both countries is binational, the topic of crime is also binational, and we have to confront it that way," he said.

Earlier this month, 18 members of Congress signed a letter urging border state governors to institute greater controls to decrease weapons smuggling into Mexico. Congressman Juan Vargas was among them.

"The devastating impacts of guns falling into the wrong hands transcend our borders ... sales of firearms without a background check pose a threat not only to peaceful civilian life in America but also claim thousands of innocent Mexican lives every year," the letter states.

The lawmakers criticized President Trump’s decision to sign a bill that makes it easier to purchase guns in the U.S.

Between 2009 and 2011, the U.S. allowed thousands of guns to be smuggled into Mexico, in hopes of tracking them to cartel leaders. About 1,400 guns were lost in the effort, known as Operation Fast and Furious.

A study in the American Political Review showed that the 2004 expiration of a federal ban on assault weapons led to increased violence in northern Mexico, most notably in Mexican cities less than 100 miles from Arizona, Texas and New Mexico. Because California retained a state-level ban, the increase in violence in Baja California was less pronounced.

More than 900 people were killed in Tijuana last year — a record high.

RELATED: Tijuana Homicides Reach Record Level In 2016

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