03-09-11, 10:42 PM
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Mexican Citizens Arming for Self-Defense
Fed up with the inability of the government to protect them from drug gangs, Mexican citizens are arming themselves for self-defense in a country where private gun ownership is mostly illegal and no Second Amendment exists.
From the El Paso Times
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Teachers, ranchers, town officials, business owners and lawyers in rural towns of northwest Chihuahua near New Mexico have armed themselves. Legal or not, they are ready to use their guns for protection.
In a country caught in the clutches of a vicious drug war, people have decided it's better to fight than to fall victim to the violence, which has claimed about 35,000 people nationally.
It is estimated that 15.5 million weapons -- including small-caliber handguns, shotguns and semiautomatic rifles -- are owned by residents of Mexico while the army and the police have just under 1 million weapons at their disposal, according to a organization in Australia that tracks weapons worldwide.
Fed up with chronic violence, some Mexican residents might be ready to push their government to make weapons more easily available.
"I don't go around without my gun anymore," said an official in a nearby town. In November, gunmen shot him in the chest as he drove along a highway. Because of the small size of his town, he did not want to be identified.
The man keeps a pistol in a drawer at his office and another in his truck's glove compartment. In January, the government issued him a license to carry a loaded .45-caliber gun.
Many others share the town official's fear.
Life in areas southwest of Ju rez has been cruel in the past two years. Besides slayings, a string of extortions, kidnappings and armed invasions of businesses and homes have taken them by surprise, many said. Fearful, these residents said they can't just sit and watch while criminals attack callously.
Guns are necessary, they said.
Having weapons for self-defense is a familiar concept for the United States, but in Mexico, it is close to impossible to obtain a permit to carry a gun. People need a license just to own any firearm. The process is burdensome. The punishment for illegal possession is severe, including prison terms of up to seven years.
The only lawful gun store is in Mexico City, far from these towns east of the Sierra Madre.
"You can have a gun only when it is not classified exclusively for the use of the military and when it is registered," said Gustavo Nevarez, an attorney in Nuevo Casas Grandes. "Nobody registers them, though."
Less than one-third of the guns owned by Mexican people are registered, according to Gun Policy, an organization at the University of Sydney in Australia that gathers guns statistics and facts across the world.
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