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Mexico Shows That Tight Gun Control Laws Don’t Guarantee Compliance

by J.D. Tuccille, Reason.com  |  published on December 14, 2012

Wearer-of-bad-rugs Bob Costas may have temporarily put gun control back in the headlines, but his advocacy hasn’t made firearms restrictions any less intrusive — or any more enforceable. Like fans of all sorts of restrictions, drugs especially, gun controllers tend to jump from fantasies about a world devoid of the objects of their wrath to demands that new laws be passed to make their fantasies come true.

Rarely do they put much thought into whether anybody will actually obey such laws, and the consequences of littering the landscape with impotent legislation. I’ve written before that gun laws tend to be widely flouted, and a peek at our neighbor to the south offers more evidence of such widespread defiance.

Mexico is actually sometimes held up as an example of exemplary gun laws. Despite a sort-of constitutional guarantee of the right to bear arms, Mexico has only one gun store, which is run by the army, and severe legal restrictions on gun ownership. From the New York Times:

The 1917 Constitution written after Mexico’s bloody revolution, for example, says that the right to carry arms excludes those weapons forbidden by law or reserved for use by the military, and it also states that “they may not carry arms within inhabited places without complying with police regulations.”

The government added more specific limits after the uprisings in the 1960s, when students looted gun stores in Mexico City. So under current law, typical customers like Rafael Vargas, 43, a businessman from Morelos who said he was buying a pistol “to make sure I sleep better,” must wait months for approval and keep his gun at home at all times.

His purchase options are also limited: the largest weapons in Mexico’s single gun store — including semiautomatic rifles like the one used in the Aurora attack — can be bought only by members of the police or the military. Handgun permits for home protection allow only for the purchase of calibers no greater than .38, so the most exotic option in the pistol case here consisted of a Smith & Wesson revolver selling for $803.05.

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