Center for American Progress

A Mother’s Plea to Stop the Flow of U.S. Guns to Mexico

A Mother’s Plea to Stop the Flow of U.S. Guns to Mexico

Mexican human rights activist María Herrera Magdaleno discusses the devastating impact of U.S. guns flowing to Mexico, including the forced disappearance of four of her sons.

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More than 112,000 people have been forcibly disappeared in Mexico. Internationally renowned human rights activist María Herrera Magdaleno spoke at a recent Center for American Progress event about the role of U.S. guns in both these disappearances and the high levels of gun violence in Mexico.

Mexico has very restrictive gun laws, and its only legal gun store is on a Mexico City army base. The United States is the main supplier of guns used in crimes throughout Mexico, especially U.S. states with weak gun laws, such as Texas and Arizona. These U.S. guns are frequently used in mass kidnappings by organized crime in collusion with local police. In 2014, for instance, six people were killed and 43 students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ School were forcibly disappeared as a result of Colt assault rifles exported from the United States.

Known affectionately as “Doña Mary,” Herrera has seen four of her eight children go and remain missing for more than a decade. In 2008, her sons Raúl and Jesús Salvador disappeared in the state of Guerrero, along with five colleagues. Two years later, her sons Gustavo and Luís Armando disappeared in Veracruz. In addition to searching for answers about her own sons, Herrera has joined with other families of missing individuals to create a network of local collectives that has grown to include nearly 200 groups in 26 states across Mexico. She has planned conferences and worked with universities to create workshops to teach people how to track down their disappeared loved ones.

In 2022, Herrera met with Pope Francis and told him“We are the victims, but it is precisely because of this situation that we must become builders of peace.” Later that year, she sued the Mexican government for failing to address the crisis of disappearances and for potentially being directly involved in her sons going missing. Time named Herrera one of “The 100 Most Influential People of 2023.”


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Nick Wilson

Senior Director, Gun Violence Prevention


Andrew Sonntag

Former Events Video Producer

Rafael Medina

Director, Media Relations

Gaby Blanco

Constituency Media Associate

Ala Al Sadi

Former Video Producer

Hai-Lam Phan

Senior Director, Creative

Julia Schroeder

Former Assistant Editor


Gun Violence Prevention

Our goal is to reduce gun violence by enacting strong gun laws, increasing investment in local solutions, and growing the movement dedicated to this mission.

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People attend a candlelight prayer vigil outside Immanuel Church .

Every day, 132 Americans are killed with guns and hundreds more are shot and wounded. That means that every 11 minutes, families and communities across the country are forever changed by gun violence.

To create healing, solidarity, and progress, we must listen to those affected directly by the gun violence epidemic. By bringing these stories to the forefront of our discussions on gun violence, we can highlight the specific needs of at-risk communities and advocate for a more informed and survivor-focused approach to building safer communities.


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