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In Mexico, only one gun store but no dearth of violence

Mexico's ongoing drug war continues to claim lives and disrupt order in the country.

But Manzano is not a fool. "We have a higher rate of crimes where the weapon involved is coming from the black market, and that happens because in our country, it is much easier to buy a gun on the black market than" at his store, he said.

Manzano said the wide gulf in gun laws between Mexico and the United States creates an almost irresistible arms-trafficking market for the powerful criminal organizations terrorizing wide swaths of his country.

Manzano recently gave a visitor a brief tour of his shop. There are several deer heads mounted on the wall and a handful of customers, who mostly browse. Display cases filled with guns are arranged in two rooms. The first room, which is labeled "Police Sales Only," is filled with weapons that ordinary citizens cannot legally buy - the heavy stuff, such as Bushmaster AR-15 assault rifles and Israeli Galil machine guns, plus gas and concussion grenades, as well as bulletproof vests and helmets.

The second room offers a wide selection of U.S. and European shotguns and rifles - Berettas, Mossbergs - for hunting and competition. They are being sold at very competitive prices but elicit few buyers.

"I think it's okay that there is a control for the sale of weapons, but nowadays, the interest in sports shooting has been greatly diminished and the young are not interested," said Manuel Yoshida, president of the Shooting Club of Los Mochis in Sinaloa, the state where the Pacific cartel and drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman reign supreme.

Yoshida added: "We have lost many members. And most of my clients have brought their weapons from the U.S., because we are near the border. Otherwise, it would be a problem for my customers having to go to Mexico City to buy their guns. It's too far."

At the gun store, there is a display for small-caliber handguns sold exclusively for domestic protection, in calibers no greater than a .38. Glock and Smith & Wesson are well-represented. These guns are legally allowed only at home - not in glove compartments, on waist belts or inside businesses.

Members of the military, police and security firms are exempt from the handgun-control law that applies to the general public. If a business owner wants a gun to protect his cantina or muffler shop, he can apply for a permit. A different permit is required to transport the weapon from one place to another. The paperwork for the latter takes a couple of weeks.

"In most cases, we suggest hiring a private security company, and, to refrain from the use of a weapon, we invite people to use other security mechanisms," Manzano said.

Alberto Islas, a security expert based in Mexico, said it is common knowledge that the easiest way for the average citizen to buy a gun is to ask a friendly local police officer.

"The cop will bring it to your house and show you how to load it," Islas said. "Of course, it is technically illegal."

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