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"Alito" Moreno, president of the PRI party, proposed easing access to high-caliber weapons at a press conference on Tuesday. Alejandro "Alito" Moreno, president of the PRI, proposed easing access to high-caliber weapons at a press conference on Tuesday. Twitter @alitomorenoc

Citing high levels of violence, PRI leader proposes relaxing gun controls

Alejandro Moreno says Mexicans should be able to defend themselves

Four congressional leaders have rejected an Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) proposal to relax gun controls so that Mexican families can defend themselves with powerful weapons.

PRI national president Alejandro Moreno, who is also a federal deputy, made the proposal Tuesday, asserting that Mexicans should be able to defend themselves if the federal government can’t guarantee their safety amid the current high levels of violence.

“We’re going to propose a modification to the firearms law so that Mexican families can gain access to larger caliber weapons with greater ease,” he told a press conference. The aim is for Mexicans to be able to protect their homes, businesses and lives, Moreno said.

“People are defenseless. [Criminals] arrive at homes and businesses and they murder women [and] men – Mexicans who can’t defend themselves because there is not a proper control and registry so that they can have” access to powerful weapons, he said.

“… Criminals should know that people will defend themselves. Our priority must be honest people,” Moreno said. “… The … [federal] government has no security plan and isn’t interested in drawing one up. That’s why violence … is the main concern of Mexicans. … There are more murders than in all previous six-year periods of government,” he said.

Mexicans already have a constitutional right to own guns with the exception of those prohibited by federal law and those reserved for the exclusive use of the military. Guns can only be purchased legally at one store operated by the army in Mexico City, but they are widely available on the black market. To buy a gun legally, citizens must have a firearms license, which can be obtained after people justify their need for a weapon and satisfy authorities that they are not involved in criminal activity and don’t use drugs. Most licenses limit possession of guns to people’s homes.

Congressional leaders with the ruling Morena party, the National Action Party (PAN), the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) and the Citizens Movement (MC) party rejected the proposal put forward by Moreno, who acknowledged that it would generate controversy.

Senator Ricardo Monreal, Morena’s leader in the upper house, said there are better ways to guarantee people’s safety than arming citizens. Allowing citizens to have greater access to guns has never been an effective strategy, he said in an interview.

Morena's leader in the Senate, Ricardo Monreal, answers reporters' questions on Wednesday.
Morena’s leader in the Senate, Ricardo Monreal, answers reporters’ questions on Wednesday. Twitter @RicardoMonrealA

“I don’t believe it’s the best option. I respect the opinion of the PRI president, but establishing laws … that allow citizens to arm themselves is the beginning of chaos. I couldn’t accept that,” Monreal said.

What is needed is to have more effective security forces, the senator said, noting that they, rather than everyday citizens, are ultimately responsible for combating crime. The state has an obligation to provide public security that protects people and their assets, Monreal added.

Senator Julen Rementería, PAN’s leader in the upper house, also poured cold water on Moreno’s proposal, although he observed that the right to defend oneself is a “delicate issue.”

Instead of giving people access to powerful weapons, the government should be obliged to fulfill its responsibility to guarantee public security, he said. “[The government] has a monopoly on force or should have,” Rementería said, apparently acknowledging that armed criminal organizations hold sway in many parts of the country.

“Today it seems it has lost that, but the government should have it in this country. Unfortunately we see that’s not the case,” he said. “That’s why people start to think about … [giving citizens greater access to guns]. … I believe that arming the public, seeking to combat crime in that way, is a very bad idea.”

PRD lower house leader Luis Espinosa Cházaro said that Moreno hadn’t raised his proposal with the PRI’s electoral partners – the PRD and PAN – and his party wouldn’t support it.

“It’s not a proposal that was discussed inside the Va por México [coalition]. I respect the position of the PRI president, but I don’t share … [the view] that arming people is the solution,” he said.

The deputy agreed that the state has the responsibility to guarantee citizens’ safety and expressed his opposition to the government’s non-confrontational security strategy. “I fervently believe that the ‘hugs, not bullets’ strategy isn’t working. The president has to reconsider, the country is flooded with blood, he has to change the strategy,” Espinosa said.

Weapons seized by the Defense Ministry from criminal organizations in Sonora earlier this year.
Weapons seized by the Defense Ministry from criminal organizations in Sonora earlier this year. FGR

MC Senate leader Clemente Castañeda said it was unbelievable that the leader of a party that was in power before the current government took office could propose facilitating access to powerful weapons. He said such “bright ideas” have had a negative impact on Mexico and caused people to turn their backs on PRI, which ruled the country for most of the 20th century before losing power to PAN in 2000.

In addition to proposing that citizens be allowed to buy high-caliber weapons, the PRI leader – a former Campeche governor who is no stranger to controversy and faces accusations of corruption – suggested that senior members of the armed forces and the National Guard should be allowed to take their weapons home so they can defend themselves and combat organized crime.

Guns are easily the most common weapons used to commit murders in Mexico, where multi-homicides occur with alarming frequency. A study published in early 2021 said that gun ownership was on the rise in Mexico as people increasingly sought to protect themselves from the high levels of violent crime.

With reports from Proceso, Animal Político and El Universal 

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