Unlike the United States, it is illegal for private citizens to carry a firearm in Mexico. The consequences for doing so can land someone in a Mexican federal prison for 15 years, said Jorge Mendoza-Yescas, the consul general of Mexico in Phoenix.
Mendoza-Yescas says there has been a spike in the number of arrests of U.S Citizens transporting guns into Mexico at the border.
A Valley family is facing this nightmare after they crossed the border to Mexico with a gun. A mistake they say has cost them family separation and financial burden. They hope the community can help to bring a husband and father home in time for Christmas.
“We have three children, he’s an honest man. He would give you the shirt off his back. He’s just a good heart and soul and literally the last person that deserves to be in this situation,” said Francine Nicholson.
Nicholson’s husband has been locked up in a federal prison in Hermosillo, Mexico for almost five months. He faces two years in prison for transporting a firearm into Mexico.
The family says they were not aware that the firearm was still in the vehicle when they crossed the border. They were on a family trip to Rocky Point, but never made it to their destination.
“We thought that we were obviously going to miss our vacation and possibly be released maybe that Monday, we had no idea of the severity,” stated Nicholson.
She says they never expected what happened next.
“I was shackled to a recliner for about 48 hours, my husband was around the corner in a cell,” said Nicholson.
She says there was no discretion, not even help to communicate with someone in English. All they were provided was translation through an app. She thinks better communication could have helped to explain the situation to the officers and ask to allow them to return to the U.S.
“For one firearm, obviously we’re not smugglers, we’re not gun runners at all. It wouldn’t even be worth the risk for one gun,” stated Nicholson.
The reality is Mexico's gun laws are among the strictest in the world. It’s been historically that way, said Mendoza-Yescas.
“If somebody wants to carry a gun it needs a special permit by the military,” stated Mendoza-Yescas.
But even getting a permit isn’t easy. The Mexican government only issues about 50 permits a year and not all firearms qualify for such a permit. Mendoza-Yescas said there’s a reason for the law to be so strict.
“Because there’s a huge problem right now in Mexico with people carrying guns and they’re using them for bad purposes.”
Just to give you an idea, it has been reported that between 70 to 90% of guns used for crime in Mexico came from the U.S.
In fact, the Mexican government is suing a group of 11-gun manufacturers in the U.S. claiming that more than 500,000 of their firearms get smuggled into Mexico every year.
▶️ ¿Sabías que todos los años más de medio millón de armas se trafican a México desde Estados Unidos?— Relaciones Exteriores (@SRE_mx) November 14, 2021
Te explicamos por qué nuestro país demandó a las empresas productoras estadounidenses de armas en el siguiente clip.#NoMásTráficoDeArmas pic.twitter.com/qUOf9yUbkw
Those firearms are feeding the gun violence in Mexico, terrorizing communities like Magdalena, Sonora, a small town near the Arizona border. An area Nicholson must travel through to go see her husband.
“I say a prayer, I know my husband is waiting for me. I can't be afraid; I have to go. I’m literally out of my mind, I won't stop until he’s home, he doesn’t deserve this, we don’t deserve this. We made a mistake.”
Nicholson says there should be more signs or billboards warning Arizonans about the consequences of bringing a gun to Mexico. She says as difficult as this situation has been for her family, it has helped her to find a purpose.
“I want to notify and make as many people as aware as possible to absolutely know where you’re going, what the rules are, double check, triple check, quadruple check your vehicles before crossing the border, if you’re unsure stop and double check,” expressed Nicholson.
For the Mexican consulate in Phoenix, the most effective way is education.
“We need to have more campaigns in the media, print, T.V. and radio stations, we’re more than willing to do that in the English-speaking community,” said Mendoza-Yescas.
The Nicholson's are now facing legal fees they cannot afford after a lawyer they first hired allegedly scammed them.
“The first attorney we hired through the U.S. consulate was $7,500. If you ever find yourself in this situation, do not trust the U.S. consulate list,” stated Nicholson.
Nicholson obtained a list of lawyers from the U.S. consulate website.
But according to the site, this list has not been vetted by the consulate.
“The Department of State assumes no responsibility or liability for the professional ability or reputation of, or the quality of services provided by, the entities or individuals whose names appear on the following lists. Inclusion on this list is in no way an endorsement by the Department or the U.S. government. Names are listed alphabetically, and the order in which they appear has no other significance. The information on the list is provided directly by the local service providers; the Department is not in a position to vouch for such information.”
“If that’s the stand they’re taking, then that list should not be something that they give to U.S. citizens. It makes you wonder who works for who, who’s working with who,” questioned Nicholson.
The family has hired a new attorney but needs $15,000 to finish paying the legal fees. They’re close to reaching the amount. If you would like to help, click here.
For more information on the consequences of trafficking firearms, click here.