I live next door to the world’s largest gun manufacturer. Here in Mexico, the murder rates are close to civil war levels.
They broke records last year, with 41,217 homicides and 25,339 first degree murders over the course of the year. And those are the official figures — which, if anything, tend to under-report reality.
United States President Donald Trump has labelled Mexican migrants heading to the US as “criminals”, but has ironically overlooked the fact that 70% of the guns coming into Mexico originate in the US.
With the recent shooting in the YouTube headquarters in San Francisco, the inspiring movements of young people demanding gun control, and Black Lives Matter protesting police impunity, the issue of systemic, deathly violence in the US is receiving important attention.
But the impact of that violence outside US borders largely goes under the radar.
In every measurable way, the US is head honcho of the global violence industry. It is the biggest arms exporter, it dominates global military spending, and it sold the majority of guns, globally, in 2016 (Britain comes second with just under 10% of gun sales). It has been the leading arms dealer in the world for 25 of the past 26 years.
It is hard to estimate how many deaths the US is responsible for overseas, especially indirect ones and those that have resulted from illegal gun trading.
But analyst Nicolas JS Davies estimated that “about 2.4 million Iraqis have been killed as a result of the illegal invasion of their country by the United States and the United Kingdom” and “about 1.2 million Afghans and Pakistanis have been killed as a result of the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001”. There are many more deaths in Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen.
It is important to consider how the US’s violence overseas contributes to a culture of violence and a glorification of murder within its borders. It is also important to remember how profitable the arms industry is. Like the drug trade, US companies have every interest in a strong demand for guns in and outside US borders.
An IBIS report on the guns and ammunition manufacturing industry noted: “In response to a weakening domestic military market, industry players have increasingly sought growth in exports”. That growth in exports has been a key factor in the percentage of murders committed in Mexico with guns increasing from 15% in 1997 to 66% last year.
The figures are almost as bad in nearby Central American countries El Salvador and Honduras — each with some of the highest murder rates in the world. In El Salvador, between 2014 and 2016, 49% of recovered guns had been originally bought in the US. For the same period in Honduras, 45% were originally bought in the US.
Indeed, the Western media focuses on the drug trade across the Americas, but ignores the gun traffickers coming from the US who are exploiting US gun laws to sell guns over the border.