In Mexico, only one gun store but no dearth of violence
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In all of Mexico, there is only one gun store. The shop, known officially as the Directorate of Arms and Munitions Sales, is operated by the Mexican military. The clerks wear pressed green camouflage. They are soldiers.
The only gun store in Mexico is not very busy.
To go shopping for a gun in Mexico, customers must come to Mexico City - even if they live 1,300 miles away in Ciudad Juarez. To gain entry to the store, which is on a secure military base, customers must present valid identification, pass through a metal detector, yield to the security wand and surrender cellphones and cameras.
To buy a gun, clients must submit references and prove that their income is honestly earned, that their record is free of criminal charges and that their military obligations, if any, have been fulfilled with honor. They are fingerprinted and photographed. Finally, if judged worthy of owning a small-caliber weapon to protect home and hearth, they are allowed to buy just one. And a box of bullets.
In Mexico, Lt. Col. Raul Manzano Velez, director of the gun shop, knows with precision his annual sales figures. On average, the military has sold 6,490 firearms each year since 2006. Legal gun sales are decreasing, even as seizures of illegal weapons soar.
Daniel Mendoza has come to shop at Mexico’s only gun store with a friend. He is interested in something to protect his family. He described himself as a middle-class businessman and was vague about prior gun ownership.
Asked whether Mexico’s gun-control laws were working, Mendoza said, “Ask the criminals.”
The Mexican military has been handling gun sales in strict military fashion since 1995. “Only a tiny percentage of our weapons end up in the hands of criminals,” Manzano said. That percentage, he said, is less than 1.
But Manzano is not a fool. “We have a higher rate of crimes where the weapon involved is coming from the black market, and that happens because in our country, it is much easier to buy a gun on the black market than” at his store, he said.
Alberto Islas, a security expert based in Mexico, said it is common knowledge that the easiest way for the average citizen to buy a gun is to ask a friendly local police officer.
“The cop will bring it to your house and show you how to load it,” Islas said. “Of course, it is technically illegal.”