The pros and cons of gun control were debated this week at an event organized by a Senator who last month proposed a constitutional change that would permit the carrying of firearms.
National Action Party (PAN) lawmaker Jorge Luis Preciado wants to modify the 10th article of the constitution so as to allow weapons to be carried in vehicles or kept on business premises to allow people to defend themselves against criminals.
Various national and international experts, representatives of non-governmental organizations and media figures debated the issue in Mexico City yesterday, defending the proposal on self-defense grounds or panning it as a trigger for more violence.
American crime specialist John Lott said that homes without guns are more vulnerable to criminal attacks.
As an example he offered the United Kingdom, where 59% of home robberies occur when homeowners are present, compared to the U.S., where that figure drops to just 13% “because thieves fear being shot at.”
Francisco Rivas, president of the National Citizen’s Watchdog, had a different opinion.
Rivas used as an example the state of Sinaloa, where the highest numbers of homicides in its history were reported in August and September. In nine out of 10 cases, he said, a firearm was used.
Such crimes do not always involve members of organized crime, Rivas said, as many cases escalated from a misdemeanor or an argument between neighbors to a homicide.
“I do not want to live in an armed and violent Mexico. What we strive for is to eliminate that same violence, because by opening the door to carrying firearms we’re looking for more confrontations,” he said.
Organizations that support the Senator’s proposal countered Riva’s position by asserting that the federal and state governments have failed in guaranteeing security, so all Mexicans should have the right to counter aggression that could endanger them or their families.
“Let it be said clearly: having a license to carry weapons doesn’t mean we’re going out to kill somebody,” said Raymundo Moreno of the pro-gun group Armed Mexico.
Actor Eric del Castillo said the only option left for the people of Mexico is self-defense.
“I do not want violence, I want defense. Cavemen had their clubs to defend themselves, and we should have one, too,” added the actor, father of actress Kate del Castillo, who claims she is being persecuted by the Mexican state for her ties with drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán.
“Peace means respect for the guns of others,” said del Castillo, paraphrasing 19th-century politician and ex-president Benito Juárez, adding bluntly that if the students of Ayotzinapa (victims of violence in Iguala, Guerro, in 2014) had been carrying, they wouldn’t have gone missing.
In contrast, actor Sergio Mayer said it was absurd to think that an assault could be avoided with a gun.
“Driver’s permits are issued yet people don’t know how to drive, and so they commit the worst aberrations on the streets. Imagine the same, but with a gun.”
After Preciado unveiled his proposal last month, Institutional Revolutionary Party Deputies countered with a bill calling for harsher penalties for carrying firearms or explosives, while Preciado’s party responded by saying the Senator’s proposal did not represent the PAN’s official position.
Another PAN Senator said the security of citizens was an obligation of the state.