Wait, guns ARE legal in Mexico?

Country's Constitution actually addresses difference between right to bear and own arms

MEXICO.- If you've traveled to Mexico by land, through San Ysidro for example, one of the first things you see on the freeway right before arriving at the border are signs stating "GUNS ILLEGAL IN MEXICO".

That's not true.

The recent conflicts between armed vigilantes, drug cartels and federal troops in the Mexican state of Michoacan, has launched yet another debate about guns in Mexico . Or actually, has raised a big question, even among Mexican citizens: "Are we even allowed to have guns?"

Yes, Mexican citizens are given the right to own firearms by their constitution. Although not exactly the same as the American Second Amendment, the right to own arms is inscribed in Article 10 of the 1917 Mexican Constitution, which states:

    Article 10. The inhabitants of the United Mexican States [Mexico's official name] are entitled to have arms of any kind in their possession for their protection and legitimate defense, except such as are expressly forbidden by law, or which the nation may reserve for the exclusive use of the army, navy, or national guard; but they may not carry arms within inhabited places without complying with police regulations.

That last highlighted clause is important. The Constitution gives clear powers to local, state and federal governments to regulate the kinds of guns available to the general public and where they can bear them, unlike the ambiguous, but praised by pro-gun activist, Second Amendment. The Mexican Constitution guarantees only a citizen's right to defend his home, and leaves the rest to the government.

Besides home defense and use by police and military forces, hunting is the other civilian uses the federal government permits. Currently, only .38 caliber guns and lower are officially permitted inside homes, while private security companies can buy larger guns and automatic rifles.

Also, Article 9 establishes the right to assembly, but "no armed deliberative meeting is authorized." No Tea Party-like rallies with guns, in other words.

Don't go transporting guns across the border though, it is most definitely illegal to carry them across the border, and non-Mexican residents need special permission to carry them inside the country.

I won't go into detail about Mexican gun culture, but enough to say that the country is absolutely not new to the debate. In fact, as this New York Times article explains:

"The United States-Mexico gun divide was not always so wide. Article 10 of Mexico's 1857 Constitution declared, much like the American Second Amendment, that "every man has the right to bear arms for his security and legitimate defense." But since then, the country has veered from the American model."

It goes on to say how the Mexican Revolution, rebellions, presidential assassinations and social unrest in the '60s and '70s, have lead to a change in attitude for Mexicans, and how, even though gun owners in Mexico want lighter regulations, would never want buying a gun to be as easy as in America.

Today, there is only one official gun-shop in all of Mexico, the D.C.A.M., Spanish for the Armament and Munitions Sales Office, operated by the National Ministry of Defense (SEDENA in Spanish), located in Mexico City.


front of the sole gun-shop in all of Mexico
front of the sole gun-shop in all of Mexico

SEDENA also sells guns through the Internet. It is $39.00 Mexican pesos to register a gun (about 2.5 dollars). According to SEDENA, in 2008 approximately 1.25 million citizens owned legal weapons in their homes, with demand growing in recent years. So much so, that the plan on opening more armories outside the capital.

Do you think guns should be made more accessible? Like in the U.S.? Worth noting also, that one can register guns at several other military bases in the country, and online.

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