- The Washington Times - Friday, May 3, 2013

President Obama said Friday that gun control will help save lives — in Mexico.

On his fourth trip to Mexico as president, Mr. Obama delivered a wide-ranging speech to students in Mexico City in which he pledged to help reduce gun violence there and to enact immigration reform that includes a pathway to U.S. citizenship for illegal immigrants.

Mr. Obama didn’t mention the Justice Department’s “Fast and Furious” gunrunning operation that led to thousands of weapons being lost south of the border. Instead, he portrayed his push for stricter gun laws in Congress as a potential benefit for Mexicans, where up to 60,000 people have been killed in the past four years in drug wars and other violence.

“Most of the guns used to commit violence here in Mexico come from the United States,” Mr. Obama said at Mexico’s Anthropology Museum. “I think many of you know that in America, our Constitution guarantees our individual right to bear arms. And as president, I swore an oath to uphold that right, and I always will.”

But he drew cheers from Mexicans when he added, “At the same time, as I’ve said in the United States, I will continue to do everything in my power to pass common-sense reforms that keep guns out of the hands of criminals and dangerous people. That can save lives here in Mexico and back home in the United States. It’s the right thing to do.”

“So we’ll keep increasing the pressure on gun traffickers who bring illegal guns into Mexico,” Mr. Obama said. “We’ll keep putting these criminals where they belong — behind bars.”

Meanwhile, Vice President Joseph R. Biden tried to take the lead on gun control without telling Mr. Obama, prompting the White House to remind the public — and perhaps the vice president — that he works for the president.

Mr. Biden told law enforcement officials Thursday that he plans to stump around the country for another push on expanded background checks and gun-trafficking laws that failed to pass the Senate last month. The vice president, who is making an appearance in South Carolina Friday and is eyeing a run for president in 2016, acknowledged that he “hasn’t really discussed” his plans with Mr. Obama.

Responding to reports of Mr. Biden’s plans, White House press secretary Jay Carney said Friday that the vice president “is a key player … [who] continues to play a leading role in that effort at the president’s direction.”

Alluding to the demand for illegal drugs in the United States, Mr. Obama told his audience in Mexico that he does not support legalizing drugs but he pledged to work towards a “comprehensive” approach to the problem.

“I honestly do not believe that legalizing drugs is the answer, but I do believe that a comprehensive approach, not just law enforcement but education and prevention and treatment, that’s what we have to do,” he said. “And we’re going to have to stay at it, because the lives of our children and the future of our nations depend on it.”

Many states have legalized marijuana for medical use, and two states — Colorado and Washington — have just approved the use of marijuana for recreational purposes as well.

On immigration, the president also said he is “absolutely convinced” that Congress will pass comprehensive reform this year. He said the legislation will benefit both nations.

“I’m convinced we can get it done — reform that continues to strengthen border security and strengthen legal immigration so citizens don’t have to wait years to bring their families to the United States; reform that holds everyone accountable so immigrants get on the right side of the law and so immigrants are not exploited and abused; and most of all, reform that gives millions of undocumented individuals a pathway to earn their citizenship,” he said.

Mr. Obama, who won reelection last year with more than 70 percent of the Hispanic vote, said America has benefited from Mexican immigrants, and that he has benefited personally.

“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. told Cesar Chavez once, ‘We are brothers in the fight for equality,’” Mr. Obama said. “And in fact, without the strong support of Latinos, including so many Mexican-Americans, I would not be standing here today as president of the United States. That’s the truth.”

The president will depart Mexico later Friday for a summit with regional leaders in Costa Rica before returning to Washington on Saturday.

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