Obama: 'I Believe in the Second Amendment'

March 4, 2011 - 7:18 AM

Obama-Calderon

President Barack Obama reaches to shake hands with Mexican President Felipe Calderon at a joint White House news conference on Thursday, March 3, 2011. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

(CNSNews.com) – At a joint presss conference with Mexican President Felipe Calderon on Thusday, President Barack Obama responded to a Mexican reporter who asked him if he had the power to veto the right of Americans to keep and bear arms by saying he believed in the Second Amendment.

"The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution allows American citizens to carry weapons and this principle is defended," the Mexican reporter said. "However, President Calderón has said that this law in Congress--this could actually go against U.S. agents, and this has happened. So, President Obama, in Mexico we have the veto, the power of veto. I don’t know how far you have the ability to veto that law that has been approved. And if you have that responsibility, why don’t you do so, sir? How long are we going to allow Mexicans to be murdered--and not just Mexicans, but now Americans, as well?"

Obama responded: “Well, the Second Amendment in this country is part of our Constitution, and the president of the United States is bound by our Constitution. So I believe in the Second Amendment. It does provide for Americans the right to bear arms for their protection, for their safety, for hunting, for a wide range of uses. That does not mean that we cannot constrain gun-runners from shipping guns into Mexico. And so we believe that we can shape an enforcement strategy that slows the flow of guns into Mexico, while at the same time preserving our Constitution.”

Standing beside the Mexican president, Obama said the two leaders were united in the effort to battle drug cartels that are killing citizens of both the U.S. and Mexico. Part of that effort involves dealing with the flow of guns, Obama said.

“One of the things that I think that President Calderon and I have discussed is how we can strengthen border security on both sides, so that drugs flowing north or guns and cash flowing south--that we are able at all these points to intervene, interdict in a way that doesn’t ... slow the commerce and trade that is so important between our two countries.”

Obama did not address the U.S. government sting operation known as “Project Gunrunner,” in which the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives deliberately moved weapons to suspected gun smugglers in Texas, so the ATF could trace their route to the Mexican drug cartels.

The guns were not supposed to make it into Mexico, but some critics say some did--and may have been used in crimes there. According to the Dallas Morning News, the weapon used to kill ICE agent Jaime Zapata while he traveled through Mexico last month was traced to the same Texas smuggling ring the ATF had been monitoring.

On Wednesday, the ATF released a statement saying it would ask a panel of law enforcement professionals “to review the bureau's current firearms trafficking strategies.”

On a related topic, the Obama administration is asking the Mexican government to allow U.S. agents to carry firearms in Mexico, which is currently against the law in that country.

The question of armed U.S. agents took on new urgency when ICE Agent Zapata was shot to death in a roadside ambush on his way to Mexico City. The suspect is a member of the Zetas drug cartel.

Calderon said the matter rests with Mexico’s legislative branch. 

“The law does not allow agents of the United States or of any other country to take part in law enforcement tasks in our territory,” Calderon said. “As a result, they cannot carry weapons or undertake operational tasks. Their functions, in line with our treaties, are limited to the exchange of information and technical assistance to support Mexican authorities…so there’s an important legal restriction that exists.”
 
Calderon also said it’s clear to him “that we must find a way of enhancing the protection of any and all agents who are acting within the framework of the law against crime.” He said his government is “analyzing alternatives,” but the final word rests with the Mexican Congress.

As for the murdered ICE agent Calderon said, “There is full political will that this individual be brought to justice with the full weight of the law, whether that be in the United States or Mexico."

Despite their differences on various issues, President Obama on Thursday stressed issues where they agree:

“As I’ve said before, President Calderon and the Mexican people have shown extraordinary courage in the fight for their country,” Obama said.  “Tens of thousands of Mexicans--innocent citizens and dedicated security forces--have lost their lives. I have reaffirmed to President Calderon that in this cause, Mexico has a full partner with the United States. Because whether they live in Texas or Tijuana, our people have a right to be safe in their communities.”

The U.S.-Mexican border has become increasingly dangerous in recent years. CNSNews.com reported that in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico -- which sits across the Rio Grande River from El Paso, Texas—3,111 civilians were murdered in 2010. In all of the territory of Afghanistan, where U.S. forces are at war with Taliban insurgents, there 2,421 civilians were killed.

While the two countries have made progress in confiscating weapons and drugs and putting more people in jail, more must be done, Obama said.