Jun 11, 2024 - World

New book takes readers inside U.S. gun smuggling to Mexico

"Exit Wounds: How America's Guns Fuel Violence across the Border" by Ieva Jusionyte

Photo: Courtesy of University of California Press

A new book takes readers deep inside the world of gun smuggling from the U.S. to Mexico, a major contributor of violence south of the border.

Why it matters: It's estimated that up to half a million weapons are smuggled every year from the U.S. to Mexico, which has seen spiking gun violence despite strict regulations.

  • There were more than 30,000 homicides in Mexico last year, and at least 70% were committed with firearms, according to Mexico's National Institute of Statistics and Geography.

Zoom in: Ieva Jusionyte's recently released "Exit Wounds: How America's Guns Fuel Violence Across the Border" tells the story of how guns make it into Mexico and the effects it has on the nation, especially in its northern regions.

  • The murder rate in Mexico is more than three times higher than in the U.S.
  • In the book, Jusionyte, an associate professor of anthropology and international security at Brown University, follows a Mexican businessman who smuggles firearms to protect himself from kidnappings and a teenage girl lured into working for organized crime.
  • She also tells the stories of two U.S. federal agents trying to stop gun traffickers and a journalist who risks his life to report on violence.

The intrigue: Jusionyte tells Axios she came up with the idea for the book after volunteering as an EMT-paramedic on the U.S.-Mexico border and witnessing the results of gun violence on migrants.

  • "At some point, I noticed these signs that said, 'arms and ammunition prohibited in Mexico.' Until then, I had never questioned why we were seeing all these people fleeing violence?"

Zoom out: The Lithuanian-born Jusionyte discovered that the violence between rival cartels in Monterrey, Mexico, was fueled mainly by using guns from Texas

  • "Texas has like a 1,000 gun stores pretty close to the border," and many of those weapons from the stores end up in the hands of the cartels, she says.
  • Wealthier families arm themselves with guns and private security to protect themselves from violence — and the cycle continues.

Between the lines: A U.S. appeals court ruled in January that a $10 billion lawsuit filed by Mexico's government against U.S. gun makers whose weapons it says are used by drug cartels can move forward.

  • The first-of-its-kind case comes as Mexican officials demand U.S. authorities urgently investigate why cartels have U.S. Army weapons that are not available to U.S. citizens.

The bottom line: Jusionyte said her purpose in writing the book was not to create a policy manual or put forth an agenda.

  • She wants readers to understand that debates about gun policies in the U.S. affect other countries, such as Mexico.
  • "What we call the border crisis or the migrant crisis is also related to our guns going to these countries."

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