Could Texas permitless carry law lead to more violence south of the border?

The Mexican government sued U.S. gun manufacturers and distributors, including some of the biggest names in guns, on Aug. 4 in U.S. federal court in Boston, arguing that their commercial practices have unleashed tremendous bloodshed in Mexico. John Locher/AP file photo

Mexico, already rocked by drug violence, is increasingly concerned that Texas, the biggest gateway for gun smuggling, is about to enact its new permitless carry law that will expand gun rights — further threatening Mexico’s “national security,” a top Mexican official said.

That and other concerns led Mexico to file an unprecedented lawsuit in U.S. federal court last week against U.S. gun manufacturers in an effort to slow the flow of guns south of the border, where they are used in tens of thousands of murders in Mexico’s own bloody drug war.

The situation is so dire that Mexican officials also have been quietly working behind the scenes with the Biden administration to fundamentally revamp its security cooperation agreement with the United States, taking aim at the so-called Merida Initiative, said Roberto Velasco, the Mexico Foreign Ministry’s chief officer for North America.

The Merida Initiative is the cornerstone of security cooperation between both countries dating back to 2007 during the presidencies of George W. Bush and Felipe Calderon of Mexico. “Since Merida began, violence has exploded in Mexico,” Velasco said in an interview, referring to the $3 billion U.S. aid program as a “huge failure.”

Velasco said the initiative, which in part relies on the so-called Kingpin strategy, has failed to curb violence. Taking down top, powerful cartel leaders is futile because they’re quickly replaced. Dozens of smaller, deadly criminal organizations are now terrorizing large swaths of the nation where once a few cartels held sway, he said. Meanwhile, a record flow of drugs like fentanyl from Mexico is sweeping across the United States.

“Is it all Merida’s fault?” Velasco asked. “Of course not, but we need a new, stronger, bilateral framework for cooperation.”

When asked whether the two countries are working on a quid pro quo for a new agreement, as in the U.S. rewarding Mexico for its cooperation on immigration, Velasco vehemently denied the assertion. He called the discussions “very productive,” adding the two sides plan on meeting this fall.

Without naming Texas, Velasco added that weapons smuggled from the U.S. “constitute a huge national threat” adding that Mexico is “extremely concerned states have moved toward a path of liberalization, permitless laws.”

Overall, about 70% of the firearms submitted for tracing in Mexico between 2014 and 2018 originated in the United States, according to a Feb. 2021 U.S. Government Accountability Office report. The report described the guns as a “national security threat” because they facilitate the illegal drug trade and organized crime.