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INT’L – GUN CRIME – American guns are stoking a homicide epidemic in Mexico

The sun had not yet risen when dozens of gunmen stormed into the town of Ocotito in southern Mexico and started shooting. Salvador Alanis Trujillo tried to fight back, but his shotgun was no match for their assault rifles. So he and his family fled. This rugged stretch of Guerrero state had always been a little lawless, home to cattle rustlers and highway bandits. But by the time the gunmen seized Ocotito in 2013, the region was overrun with dozens of criminal groups battling for territory. There was another key difference: The criminals were now packing AR-15s, AK-47s and other weapons of war. Mexico is in the grips of a deadly arms race. It began as part of an escalating conflict among major criminal groups, and it accelerated in 2006 after Mexico’s military went to battle with the cartels. Today, millions of weapons are in private hands — in direct violation of Mexico’s strict gun laws. Some of those firearms once belonged to the military or police and were sold into the underworld. But the vast majority were smuggled from the world’s largest gun market: the United States. The arms buildup has helped fuel record levels of violence. Last year, Mexico saw 20,005 gun homicides — nearly seven times as many as in 2003. Impunity in Mexico, where 95% of killings go unpunished, has spurred more people to take up arms — and carry out their own justice. After Alanis was forced to abandon his property, which he had bought with savings from a long stint as an auto mechanic in North Carolina, he went to state authorities for help.  [full article]

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