MEXICO CITY — There’s just one place in all of Mexico where you can legally buy a gun. It’s tucked away in an anonymous building on an army base in the capital, staffed by soldiers.
The Associated Press reports that those who enter must surrender any cellphones, tablets or cameras, remove caps and pass through a metal detector. Weapons are kept in locked glass cases, unlike many of the 50,000-plus U.S. gun shops where used-gun racks on showroom floors allow easy access and clerks are happy to let you heft an unloaded firearm.
Mexico’s constitution guarantees citizens’ right to own a handgun and hunting rifles for self-defense and sport. Legally getting your hands on one, however, requires clearing a series of bureaucratic hurdles far stricter than in the United States and, for many, travelling great distances to reach the country’s lone gun store.
In fact, most of Mexico’s 120 million inhabitants probably don’t even know about the Directorate of Arms and Munitions Sales — it is prohibited from advertising any of its goods, or the mere fact that it exists.
But that hasn’t stopped sales from booming, in parallel with a large and active black-market trade for contraband weapons flooding south from the United States.
According to army records, the store sold 549 guns in 2000. For 2015, sales had risen to 10,115, an increase reflecting the rise in concern about personal safety during a surge in violent deaths in Mexico.
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