Trump’s Export Reform Will Shower Gun Industry in Central American and Mexican Blood Money — CEPR

El Salvador has one of the highest homicide rates in the world. Bordering the country are the other two nations in Central America’s “Northern Triangle” region: Honduras, with the world’s fifth-highest homicide rate in 2017, and Guatemala, in sixteenth place. North of Guatemala is Mexico, where a homicide rate quintupling that of the United States puts it in nineteenth. But the United States isn’t just a bystander to this tragic violence; the majority of these homicides are firearm-related, and 70 percent of guns seized from criminals in Mexico traced by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) come from the US. Almost 41 percent of guns seized in the Northern Triangle originate in the US, including almost half the guns in El Salvador.

The astonishing violence in Central America is a major root cause of forced migration to the US from the region. US guns play a clear role in fueling the crisis. A few of these weapons originated from US military shipments to militaries and paramilitaries in the region during the Cold War. Most modern traffic to cartels and gangs occurs through the black market, with US residents legally purchasing firearms here and then illegally transporting them south. Harry Penate — at the time the only ATF official responsible for US arms tracing in all of Central America — gave one example of a gun bought at a licensed gun store in Baltimore being recovered from criminals in El Salvador less than a week later.

But not all US guns come through the black market. US gun manufacturers regularly export guns to foreign buyers legally through a weak and underenforced regulatory system, often allowing guns to wind up in the hands of organized crime. The Trump administration has recently published regulations that will make the system even weaker. This will not only put profits before lives in Central America, but is likely to worsen the drivers of the very migrant flows Trump viciously opposes.

Read the rest at CEPR’s The Americas Blog.

Originally published at on February 12, 2020.

Writer on politics, public policy, and current events. All opinions here are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of employers past or present.

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