There is a growing trend in many of the states in Mexico of civilian groups arming themselves to fight against the organized drug cartels. They have grown tired of the extortion, kidnappings, rape and murders perpetrated on the civilian population by the cartels. Over the past year especially, self-defense groups in the state of Michoacan have risen up to battle the Knights Templar cartel. These groups have come about because of the people’s frustration at what they perceive as incompetent and corrupt Federal police and military efforts to stop the cartels.
Mexican citizens suffer under some of the strictest gun control laws. Although their Constitution grants them the right to keep arms for home defense, these arms are highly regulated by type and caliber, limiting the people to .380 caliber or smaller pistols (excluding .357 and 9mm), .22 caliber or bolt-action rifles and shotguns. All firearms are supposed to be registered with the government, and citizens must obtain permission to buy, sell or transport a firearm. Permission is also required to purchase ammunition, and is only allowed in certain quantities and for the specific caliber weapon that is registered. It is virtually impossible for the average Mexican civilian to get a permit to carry concealed, unless they are able to bribe a government official. As a result of these draconian gun control laws, the average law-abiding Mexican citizenry has been disarmed. Meanwhile, there is a thriving black market of large caliber guns and heavy firepower for the criminals and cartels.
The self-defense groups in Mexico began as lightly armed squads, equipped with only shotguns, small pistols, machetes and the odd hunting rifle. They are untrained fighters, mostly farmers and small business owners, but they are determined to reclaim and restore peace and justice in their lands. They set up roadblocks and clear suspected cartel houses and strongholds in various areas. As they have succeeded in driving cartel forces out of their towns, they have improved their armament by capturing some of the cartels weaponry. Some have no doubt also ventured into the black market themselves to acquire higher-powered firearms. Now some of the groups are equipped with AK-47 type rifles, AR-15s and body armor. It is rumored that some of these groups may be getting support from rival cartels and wealthy businessmen, allegations that the groups vehemently deny.
According to Mexican law, what these groups are doing is illegal. In fact, at various times in their fight, many of these groups have had standoffs with Federal forces attempting to disarm them, sometimes resulting in civilian deaths. But they have consistently refused to back down or disarm until the cartels have been arrested, killed or driven out. While the Federal government will never openly approve of the self-defense groups actions, they have often looked the other way and even assisted the groups in some cases.
In a move that can only be described as a political ploy for civilian support, the Mexican government has recently offered the civilian groups a chance to “legalize” themselves by joining the Rural Defense Force, thereby gaining the full support and approval of the government. In doing so, the self-defense groups must register each of their members and all of their guns with the government, and would fall under government control. This may sound like a good idea in the short-term, but given the rampant corruption in the Mexican government, it will probably end up badly for the civilian groups. In all likelihood, the government will once again try to disarm the groups whenever they feel like they are no longer needed to fight the cartels.
In the US, we sometimes take our 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms for granted. Our Constitution does not give us the right to own and carry weapons, but instead recognizes that this is a natural right for all people and forbids the government from constraining or infringing upon that right. Unfortunately, our right has in fact been infringed, with many gun control groups seeking to infringe upon it further. One need only look at what is happening in Mexico to realize the likely outcome of a highly regulated and disarmed population versus powerfully armed criminal organizations and a corrupt government.
Gun rights advocates must maintain their vigilance in the fight against gun control. We must study the self-defense groups in Mexico and support their efforts. Should we fail in our fight to protect our unalienable natural right to keep and bear arms in the US, we will undoubtedly find ourselves in their same predicament one day.
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