A war is being waged by Mexican drug cartels that is killing thousands of ordinary citizens, police, and government officials.
According to an analysis by the Pentagon, the violence is even beginning to jeopardize the stability of Mexico -- a nation of almost 110 million people on our southern border.
Last November the Pentagon's Joint Forces Command concluded that Mexico was at risk of a "rapid and sudden collapse" due in part to "sustained assault and pressure by criminal gangs." The Pentagon further concluded that "[a]ny descent by Mexico into chaos would demand an American response based on the serious implications for homeland security alone."
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder calls it nothing less than "a threat to U.S. national security."
What makes this dire situation even worse is America's nearly non-existent gun violence prevention safety net. Arizona's Attorney General Terry Goddard told CNN that America is "the gun store for a great deal of the world," a fact that Mexican drug gangs know too well.
As the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) reports, 90 percent of firearms recovered at Mexican crime scenes have been traced to gun sellers right here in the United States.
The Brady Center described the cost of putting American guns in the hands of Mexican gangs last week in a comprehensive report, Exporting Gun Violence: How Our Weak Gun Laws Arm Criminals in Mexico and America.
In a nutshell, criminals follow the path of least resistance. Mexico has some of the strongest gun laws in the world, and America has some of the weakest. Mexican gangs sell their drugs in the United States and buy their guns here, where we make it lethally simple for dangerous people to arm themselves.
Gangs then take those guns -- assault weapons, .50 caliber sniper rifles and semi-automatic handguns -- south of the border to kill police, innocent civilians and each other.
The same gun trafficking principle applies within the United States, as well. Domestic gun traffickers buy their firearms in weak gun law states like West Virginia and Mississippi, and distribute them to criminals in strong gun law states like New Jersey and Massachusetts. This is nothing new.
Officials in Washington have long known that America's weak gun laws facilitate Mexico's gang killings, just as they know that those same legal loopholes and corrupt gun dealers arm American criminals as well -- producing over 10,000 gun homicides in this country each year (compared to just 52 in the United Kingdom last year).
Columnist Ruben Navarrette said recently, "No point in denying it. Much of the death and destruction south of the border is stamped: 'Made in the U.S.A.' Americans helped make this mess. It's only right that we do whatever we can to help clean it up -- not just for Mexico's own good, but for ours."
Specifically, what Congress and President Obama can do is show some leadership, confront the gun lobby, and put America's national security first.
The president and Congressional leaders should require Brady criminal background checks for every gun sale in this country, including at gun shows.
They should restrict access to military-style assault weapons such as AK-47s that can fire 30 body armor-piercing rounds in 6 seconds, as well as .50-caliber sniper rifles that can shoot through armored vehicles and shoot down helicopters.
Congress and the President should also crack down on the small percentage of corrupt licensed gun dealers who account for almost 60% of crime guns in this country.
These are concrete steps our elected officials can take to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. American voters strongly support them because they will help save lives -- not just in Mexico but right here at home.