Study: Allowing The Assault Rifle Ban To Expire Led To Hundreds Of Mexican Deaths As Well

When people in the United States discuss gun regulation, the conversation tends to center around the policy implications within our borders — how guns are used to protect life and property, and how they are a guaranteed freedom. But the implications matter across the border, too, in neighboring Mexico.

A study, published this morning on the political science blog The Monkey Cage, shows that violent crime in Mexico has risen when it’s easier to access firearms in neighboring US states. In particular, this study looked at the assault weapons ban, and how its expiration effected the homicide rate across the border from California, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas. It attributes 16.4 percent of the increase in Mexican homicides to the expiration of the assault weapons ban:

The expiration relaxed the permissiveness of gun sales in border states such as Texas, Arizona and New Mexico, but not California, which retained a pre-existing state-level ban. Using mortality statistics over 2002-2006, we show that homicides, gun-related homicides and crime gun seizures increased differentially in Mexican municipios located closer to entry ports in these other border states, relative to entry ports in California. Our estimates suggest that the U.S. policy change caused at least 239 additional deaths annually in municipios near the border during post-2004 period. …Our findings suggest that U.S. gun laws have exerted an unanticipated spillover on gun supply in Mexico, and this increase in arms has fueled rising violence south of the border.

Since California’s ban on assault weapons remained in place when the federal ban expired, the effects were drastically different:

For Republicans who oppose stricter gun laws, this study may pose some cognitive dissonance. The manufactured scandal over government program “Fast and Furious” — a misguided program started under Bush that allowed Mexican criminals to walk away with guns for the purpose of tracking their movements — has been a mainstay of Republican attacks on Obama in the last year. Republicans have insisted that Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder put border patrol agents’ lives at risk by allowing the guns to walk.

But this study points to the expiration of the assault weapons ban as a way to curb violence at the border, and that’s something that’s desperately needed, not just for the security of US border patrol agents, but for both countries on the whole. Mexican violence, particularly at the border has been horrific over the last few years. That violence spills over the border into the US. If this study is right, a renewal of the assault weapons ban, which has been proposed in the wake of the shooting in Newtown, CT, might help staunch the flow of violence, at home and abroad.