With the recent surge of illegal immigration from Mexico and Central America, on top of decades of inadequate border security and otherwise minimal and haphazard enforcement of America’s immigration laws, and the very real prospect that many of these people will obtain amnesty, this question arises: What effect might such an amnesty have on gun ownership here? Two things are almost certain; 1. Under an amnesty, gun ownership will rise, and 2. Firearms-related crime will continue to drive our deeply polarized national discourse on gun ownership.
As to the first issue –rates of gun ownership– three factors are likely to drive it upward if a broad-scale amnesty is granted: the socio-political history of the Latino immigrants, the ready availability of firearms in the US, and concern among US citizens about increased crime caused by immigrants who, after an amnesty, will have no fear of deportation for criminal conduct.
The first factor –the socio-political history of the Latino immigrants– sets the stage for two fundamental reasons that gun ownership will rise among them. The first is self-defense and protection of home and family. The people who continue to flood our Southwestern states come from countries where criminality, often accompanied by violence and murder, is high. In addition, such law enforcement as exists there is often insufficient, ineffective, corrupt and sometimes flat out-gunned. This fact, at least as to Mexico, is well-documented, and has led to the recent nationwide rise of the autodefensas –armed local self-defense groups– who have spontaneously organized for the community security that the Mexican state and federal governments are unable or unwilling to provide.