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Study: US Gun Policy Felt In Mexico

Study: US Gun Policy Felt In Mexico
A economist says access to assault weapons in the United States affects violence in Mexican border towns.

Cross-Border Spillover: U.S. Gun Laws and Violence in Mexico
Cross-Border Spillover: U.S. Gun Laws and Violence in Mexico
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The touchy debate over gun control, and specifically a renewed ban on assault weapons, is moving forward.

President Barack Obama said he would bring the issue before Congress in January.

Whatever policymakers decide, if anything, could affect Mexican drug violence, according to University of Massachusetts Amherst Economist Arin Dube.

He said the expiration of the U.S. assault weapons ban in 2004 put more powerful weapons into the hands of Mexican drug cartels.

“Within months of this change in policy we saw an uptick exactly where we would expect,” said Dube, who co-wrote a paper on border violence this year.

That uptick happened in Mexican towns near border states like Arizona and Texas. The policy shift caused at least 239 deaths in each of the two years that followed, Dube said. But the same level of violence was not as prevalent near California, where strict state gun laws are still on the books.

"Near the California border, if you went across the border to the U.S. side, you couldn’t just walk in and buy a semi-automatic with a detachable magazine," he said.

Even before this week’s debate, gun advocates dismissed the charges that permissive gun laws in the U.S. play a role in border violence.

Meanwhile, tighter U.S. gun laws might help, but they won’t solve the problem, said Alejandro Hope of the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness.

"The increase in violence has many sources," he said from Mexico City. "It has to do with the shape and structure of drug markets. It has to do with Mexican government policy."

And limiting access to guns in the U.S. won’t do much to reduce the demand for them in Mexico, Hope added.