Obama blames American guns for Mexican deaths: â€˜Most of the guns used to commit violence here in Mexico come from the United Statesâ€™
The president omitted mention of Operation Fast and Furious, his Department of Justiceâ€™s program that â€˜walkedâ€™ thousands of guns across the border.
President Obama used a speech at Mexicoâ€™s Museo Nacional de AntropologÃa â€“ the National Anthropology Museum â€“ to claim that â€˜most of the guns used to commit violence here in Mexico come from the United States.â€™
â€˜I think many of you know that in America, our Constitution guarantees our individual right to bear arms,â€™ Obama said. â€˜And as president, I swore an oath to uphold that right, and I always will.â€™
â€˜But at the same time, as Iâ€™ve said in the United States, I will continue to do everything in my power to pass common-sense reforms that keep guns out of the hands of criminals and dangerous people.â€™
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Relationship: President Barack Obama has admitted that guns from his country are partly to blame for deadly violence in Mexico
â€˜That can save lives here in Mexico and back home in the United States,â€™ Obama added. â€˜Itâ€™s the right thing to do.â€™
we'll keep increasing the pressure on gun traffickers who bring illegal
guns into Mexico. We'll keep putting these criminals where they belong:
testimony in 2011 from a top Department of Justice official indicates
that Obama may be correct in saying that the U.S. is the source of
'most' guns used to commit violence in Mexico.
Lanny Breuer, then the Assistant Attorney General, referred a Senate Judiciary subcommittee to statistics showing that 94,000 weapons had been recovered from Mexican drug cartels in the previous five years, including 64,000 â€“ a 70 per cent ratio â€“ that could be traced back to the United States.
Promises: He pledged to forge an equal partnership between the two neighbours as they battle powerful drug cartels
But there are no statistics widely available to show what percentage of Mexicoâ€™s violent crime is tied to the illegal drug trade.
While Mexican citizens have their own constitutional right to bear arms, Mexico City has only a single licensed gun shop and the nationâ€™s military controls it, according to a 2009 National Public Radio broadcast.
In part because they lack legal avenues to purchase the weapons they are entitled to own, Mexicans have turned to a black market â€“ including guns purchased in the U.S. and smuggled to the south.
Changes in the Mexican army, including a slow-down in Central American armed conflicts, have brought record numbers of military desertions, dumping countless guns into the private market. According to some news reports, at least 150,000 desertions were recorded between 2003 and 2009.
Bond building: The president was visiting Mexico to discuss drug policy and immigration with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto
Obama also did not mention the more than 2,000 firearms that his Department of Justice â€˜walkedâ€™ across the Mexican border as part of Operation Fast and Furious, a federal law enforcement project that aimed to track weapons to drug traffickers.
Those guns have been connected to the deaths of at least 300 Mexican citizens. And U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry died in December 2010 when a so-called â€˜Fast and Furious gunâ€™ was recovered at the scene of his murder during a routine patrol in Arizona.
An ensuing Congressional investigation led to the first-ever citation of a sitting cabinet member â€“ Attorney General Eric Holder â€“ for contempt of Congress. Holder declined to provide most of the more than 140,000 documents subpoenaed by a House committee, although the Department of Justice did selectively turn over thousands of others.
Protests: Obama also said he sees a 'new Mexico' emerging, with a deepening democracy and growing economy
Change they can believe in? Obama said he is optimistic that the US will change its patchwork of immigration laws
The term gun â€˜walkingâ€™ referred to the administration-approved practice of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) of instructing legal gun dealers to sell firearms to so-called â€˜straw buyersâ€™ who intended to pass them on to others.
Once sold, the guns would be â€˜walkedâ€™ across the U.S.-Mexico border with the permission of federal authorities. While their intention was to follow more than 2,000 guns to their destinations inside the illicit Mexican drug trade, barely one-third of them â€“ principally the weapons used in murders and then discarded at the scene, as is common in Mexico â€“ were ever recovered.
Some gun rights groups have argued that Operation Fast and Furious was intentionally devised as a way to promote gun control, citing emails between senior ATF officials that discussed whether the Fast and Furious guns in one region â€˜were all purchased from the same [dealer] and at one time.â€™
â€˜We are looking at anecdotal cases to support a demand letter on long gun multiple sales,â€™ one email read.
In another, one ATF leader wrote to another that Fast and Furious â€˜could be a strong supporting factor if we can determine how many multiple sales of long guns occurred during the course of this case.â€™
ATFâ€™s intention, ultimately scrapped under political pressure, was to increase reporting requirements on licensed gun dealers when they sell more than one weapon in a single transaction.
A White House spokesman did not respond to a request for comment about whether President Obama was referring to Fast and Furious weapons in his speech.