On Monday, Mexican president Felipe Calderon continued Mexico's tradition of blaming America for its self-induced problems, and continued his personal habit of blaming America's gun laws for the fact that his policies have failed to dismantle Mexico's drug cartels and, regrettably, that his failure has contributed to a severe increase in murders in Mexico.
At a White House news conference held in conjunction with his meeting with President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada, Calderon essentially repeated the claim he made during a speech to Congress in 2010, that Mexico's murder rate increased when the U.S. "assault weapon" ban expired.
Through a translator, Calderon said that "The expiring of the assault weapons ban in the year 2004 coincided almost exactly with the beginning of the harshest -- the harshest -- period of violence we've ever seen."
"Almost exactly?" As the ban's leading supporter, then-president Bill Clinton, might have said, "it depends on how you define 'almost.'"
The ban, which prohibited putting attachments such as adjustable-length stocks and flash suppressors on various semi-automatic firearms, expired in September 2004. Mexico's sharp increase in murders began after Calderon launched his war against the drug cartels, within days of taking office in December 2006.
Reliable Mexican crime statistics are hard to come by, but cartel-related killings appear to account for the majority of murders in Mexico, and since Calderon put on Mexico's presidential sash, cartel-related killings have sharply increased. A chart prepared by the Center of Research for Development (CIDAC) think tank shows that Mexico's murder rate was gradually decreasing before Calderon took office, then began to rise after his war on the cartels began. Cartel-related killings rose from 2,800 in 2007, to 6,800 in 2008, 9,600 in 2009, and 15,000 in 2010.
This is not to blame Calderon for trying to destroy the cartels. We wish him well in that epic struggle. But if Calderon overestimated his ability to triumph over the corruption that has been entrenched in Mexico for more than a century, he will find no solution in decrying the expiration of the 1994-2004 ban. Nor will Miami Herald columnist Andres Oppenheimer be able to justify his opinion that NRA is a "cartel" that bears a "huge tacit responsibility in the bloodshed that is taking place in Mexico" because we oppose the ban's reinstatement. Since the ban expired, the U.S. murder rate has dropped to about an all-time low, while Mexico's rate has risen to about an all-time high. Numbers like those tell the story in any language, clearly enough for any politician or two-cent opinion vendor to understand.