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By Axel Caballero and Kristel Mucino*

The tragedy in Colorado demonstrated the devastating lethality of AR-15 type guns, like the one used in the Aurora shooting, and has caused many to question whether it makes sense to allow the purchase of military-style assault rifles. What a lot of people don't know is that these rifles are also the weapons of choice among ruthless Mexican drug cartels. In the last 6 years, over 60,000 people have lost their lives in Mexico's wave of violence.

The failure of the United States to enact meaningful gun regulation is not only affecting the United States; it is also fueling violence in Mexico. Among the victims are countless innocent bystanders, journalists, and children. The brutal truth is this--the AR-15s and many other guns used by drug lords, gangs, and kidnappers come from the United States.

According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), more than 70 percent of the weapons seized in Mexico in the last three years and submitted for tracing came from the United States.

How do these weapons end up in the hands of Mexico's brutal drug lords? Look at the video on gun trafficking produced by WOLA and Cuéntame and embedded here.

Straw purchasers take advantage of lax U.S. gun laws and, in most states, can buy 10, 20 or even more guns in one transaction, with the intention of reselling them to gun traffickers. In contrast, it is almost impossible to buy firearms legally in Mexico.

But on the U.S. side of the border, in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California, there are more than 8,000 federally licensed firearms dealers.

Behind these weapons there is a multibillion-dollar industry. Consider this: DPMS--just one of many gun manufacturers--makes an average of 74,000 AR-type rifles a year, then sells them for about $889 each, earning roughly $65 million dollars in sales. Local gun dealers then sell each AR-type rifle for an average of $1,075. Estimates indicate that such guns could then be resold on the black market for up to $1575.  Finally, when they reach Mexico, the guns could be sold for up to $4,300.

This multibillion-dollar industry uses its resources to ensure that arms remain unregulated. Everyone in the trafficking chain makes big bucks, and those who manufacture and sell the guns have powerful firms that lobby Congress to ensure that their business remains untouched. It is beyond shocking that in the United States the act of trafficking guns is not a federal crime. Instead, gun traffickers get charged with the minor crime of selling guns without a license. The penalties for this are a joke--equivalent to the crime of trafficking chickens or cattle.

There are a few brave members of Congress that are trying to address the problem without limiting the right of honest citizens to bear arms. For example, Representatives Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Elijah Cummings (D-MD) are trying to make the act of trafficking firearms a federal offense punishable with up to 20 years. The "Stop Gun Trafficking and Strengthen Law Enforcement Act of 2011" also targets those leading weapon trafficking rings.Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) has introduced legislation to crack down on straw purchases. These bills would be crucial steps to close the loopholes that allow this lethal business to flourish.

But the process of passing laws is long and difficult, and Congress is in gridlock over the gun issue. The crisis in Mexico, as well as horrible tragedies like that of Aurora, call for urgent action--action that President Obama can take without waiting for Congress.

Mexico's growing peace movement and a coalition of organizations in the United States, including WOLA and Cuéntame, have joined the many voices on both sides of the border calling for an end to gun trafficking.

As a first step, President Obama should enforce the existing ban on the importation of assault rifles. Second, he should give the ATF the resources and authority it needs to actually do its job, especially in border-states, where it lacks the capacity to stop the massive flow of arms across the border.

Finally, the petition calls on President Obama to require gun dealers in border states to report to the ATF the sale of multiple assault rifles to the same person over a period of five days. The good news is that last summer the Obama administration instituted this reporting rule. But since then, members of Congress and the gun lobby have tried to undermine the rule. To be really effective, this rule should be implemented all across the country.

For Mexicans across the political spectrum, the failure of the United States to stop gun trafficking is an act of tremendous irresponsibility that results in the spilling of innocent blood. In the name of the more than 60,000 victims in Mexico and of the victims of the many shootings in the United States, it is time to enact meaningful gun control legislation in this country.

*Axel Caballero is the director of Cuéntame and Kristel Mucino is Communications Director at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA).

Originally posted to Cuentame on Thu Aug 02, 2012 at 05:40 PM PDT.

Also republished by Baja Arizona Kossacks.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Epic diary, my heart goes out to the families (5+ / 0-)

    of the many deceased in Mexico.

    With you, the President does not have to wait on Congress.

    Go, Mr. President!

    How did Supreme Court decision ACA help the 23 million still uncovered? Ask the 18,000 Doctors of PNHP -- they're not waiting, FORWARD now to pass H.R. 676, the “Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act .

    by divineorder on Thu Aug 02, 2012 at 05:48:14 PM PDT

    •  1st diary , 1st comment . (5+ / 0-)

      How much abuse will result ?

      "Drop the name-calling." Meteor Blades 2/4/11

      by indycam on Thu Aug 02, 2012 at 05:53:34 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  If the RKBA folk are smart, they'll stay away (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        stevej, Sandino

        from this one.

        None of the proposals articulated in this diary are at all radical, nor do they impinge on the Sacred Second.

        Republican Healthcare Plan: Everyone will be encouraged to move to Chris Collins' district, where noone dies of cancer.

        by WisePiper on Thu Aug 02, 2012 at 06:03:25 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I'm quite pro-2nd (7+ / 0-)

        including agreeing with the Supreme Court that it is an individual right. Still, I agree with common sense measure to insure that guns are ONLY in the hands of those who have NOT forfeited that right.

        I agree with the closure of the gun show loophole. That would most likely mean that a parent couldn't pass a family heirloom firearm to a child without involving a gun shop and a background check. I understand and I still agree.

        I would like to see federal trafficking laws with some teeth. I used to support the 10 round magazine limit, but since it expired there has been such an explosion in magazines greater than 10 rounds that I'm not sure it would have any purpose now. There are bunch of perfectly legal magazines stamped "for law enforcement use only" out there.

        I do not agree with an "assault weapons ban" because real assault weapons where banned (nearly, you can get a federal license with effort) back in 1934. Most modern definitions are more cosmetic that effectual. There may be a place to ban certain specific features but it shouldn't be a knee-jerk reaction. It should be possible to show how those specific features contribute to firearms with them are preferred for committing crimes.

        I DO NOT support any type of blanket ban on semiautomatic weapons. This style of operation has been used on a significant number of guns for over 100 years. It may be the most common style sold today. They only fire 1 round per trigger pull.

        A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned how to walk forward. Franklin D. Roosevelt

        by notrouble on Thu Aug 02, 2012 at 06:14:45 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  What "loophole"? (7+ / 0-)

          What laws are not in effect at gunshows, but are required elsewhere?

          And standard capacity magazines were never banned, merely new manufacture was banned for 10 years.  And it hasn't been definitively connected to any drop in crime, hence why it was allowed to lapse.

          The rest I pretty much agree with.

          •  Private party sale of firearms (4+ / 0-)

            without involving a dealer to run the background check of the purchaser. When I buy a gun from out of state I have to have it sent to a local dealer who verifies I can purchase a firearm. I can buy a gun from a coworker (away from work) without the same verification. I don't feel that ending this loophole unfairly impacts my right to keep and bear arms.

            I think closing this sale exemption, combined with reasonable laws aiming to prevent straw purchasers, could go a long way towards keeping guns out of the hands of criminals (and Mexico.)

            A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned how to walk forward. Franklin D. Roosevelt

            by notrouble on Thu Aug 02, 2012 at 09:01:19 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  That's not a "gunshow loophole". (4+ / 0-)

              That's simply the law on private sales.  Has nothing to do with venue.

              But it does have to do with Interstate commerce laws.  I don't think the Feds can regulate those intra-state sales, that's up to the individual states.  Constitutional issue there.

              And unless you can read minds, or have better precognition than I, I'm not sure what else you can do about straw-purchases. They're already illegal.  Got any suggestions?

              •  Federal background check (0+ / 0-)

                I think we both know what is meant when you hear the phrase "gun show loophole." Perhaps I shouldn't have used the loaded term, it's shorthand for allowing firearms purchases without passing the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS.) One source has been private parties sales at gun shows. It certainly isn't the only type of private party sale.

                Most gun crime is committed by persons who could not legally possess a firearm. I think requiring NICS for all purchases would help without being an unreasonable burden on the RKBA. I understand there is some intrastate commerce issues but this is a long ways from the struck down Gun-Free School Zones Act (of 1990, struck down 1995.) Trying to cover that with the Commerce Clause was a real stretch. It looks like NICS for in-state gun production and sales is being challenged right now.

                A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned how to walk forward. Franklin D. Roosevelt

                by notrouble on Fri Aug 03, 2012 at 12:31:58 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

  •  Not to worry. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    OMwordTHRUdaFOG, Robobagpiper

    The DOJ has this covered. Those cartel recipients will be bagged any day now.

  •  Or we just end the war on drugs (18+ / 0-)

    and 90% of the problem goes away almost overnight without unduly infringing on foundational rights of the people.

  •  Guns are more important than people (0+ / 0-)

    That is the American way. We like killing people.

    The radical Republican party is the party of oppression, fear, loathing and above all more money and power for the people who robbed us.

    by a2nite on Thu Aug 02, 2012 at 06:20:51 PM PDT

  •  so 70% of the guns (4+ / 0-)

    that Mexican police think came from the United States, came from the United States?  Shocking.

    Medic Alert: Do not resuscitate under a Republican administration.

    by happymisanthropy on Thu Aug 02, 2012 at 06:22:15 PM PDT

  •  You are completely right about lax US gun laws (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    divineorder, tobendaro, Sandino

    fueling the narco wars in Mexico, which have taken at least 47,000 lives in the past five years.

    In all the recent nonsense about "Fast and Furious" neither Issa nor Holder was willing to make an issue of the fact that thousands and thousands of Mexicans are dying because of guns legally bought on the US side of the border. Holder presumably did not want to call attention to the real purpose of "Fast and Furious," which was to deal with this cross-border trade. (It's an item of faith with NRA gun nuts that US assault weapons never go to Mexican narco gangs)

     An important Fortune magazine article makes it clear that the Fast and Furious program never involved allowing anyone to ship guns to Mexico - that was all made up by the rightwing. The fact that this charade played out totally outside the real issue of the Mexican war is one more sign of how enfeebled our governing system has become.

    Another sign of the paralyis that grips Obama, as much as Romney, was the president's heavy-handed scuttling this week of the UN's first serious treaty to regulate the international arms trade.

    That lucrative business costs an estimated 2000 lives a day worldwide. (that's another 9/11 every 36 hours)  For details, see Amy Goodman"s The Obama Administration Torpedos the Arms Trade Treaty.

    If my soldiers were to begin to think, not one would remain in the ranks. -Frederick the Great

    by Valatius on Thu Aug 02, 2012 at 06:33:23 PM PDT

    •  let's get him out of there then and elect a real (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      man, one who can get things done!

      Let's see, somebody like..ahh...well...Chuck Norris!

      or....Arnold ...he might work!

      From those who live like leeches on the people's lives, We must take back our land again, America!...Langston Hughes

      by KenBee on Thu Aug 02, 2012 at 07:40:16 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  So, no guns allowed to be sold, by the BATFE.... (7+ / 0-)

      were used in crimes?  Brian Terry will be happy to hear that...

      Oh, wait a minute...

      You know, the B.P. agent who's name many top government officials can't seem to fucking remember?

    •  US Drug policy fuels the Narco Wars (9+ / 0-)

      Legalize domestic production of marijuana, and decriminalize possession by consenting adults, tax the product - and remove 1/3 or more of the cartel income.

      Nah... let's ban civilian gun ownership in the USA, as it's worked so well in Mexico, and leave The War on Drugs alone, as it employs a great many people, and builds the for-profit privatized US prison system.

      According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), more than 70 percent of the weapons seized in Mexico in the last three years and submitted for tracing came from the United States.
      Bold mine, as it pertains to "Country of Origin" - that would be a label such-as:  
      "Beretta Made under license in the USA" or "Imported by: Interarms, Alexandria, Virginia"
      Thus, if I have a: FN, Galil, AK, SKS, HK or any one of thousands of other guns that have no specific stamping to denote US-sourced, I can ignore submitting that to the BATFE for tracing.

      Only when read appropriately, does the BATFE statement hold water.

      To your cited Fortune Magazine Article:

      As political pressure has mounted, ATF and Justice Department officials have reversed themselves. After initially supporting Group VII agents and denying the allegations, they have since agreed that the ATF purposefully chose not to interdict guns it lawfully could have seized. Holder testified in December that "the use of this misguided tactic is inexcusable, and it must never happen again."
      But five law-enforcement agents directly involved in Fast and Furious tell Fortune that the ATF had no such tactic. They insist they never purposefully allowed guns to be illegally trafficked. Just the opposite: They say they seized weapons whenever they could but were hamstrung by prosecutors and weak laws, which stymied them at every turn.
      Eric Holder was boss of both the BATFE and the US Attorneys tasked with bringing this to trial.
      Arizona laws be damned, this has everything to do with violations of the Gun Control Act of 1968, and nothing to do with "lax Arizona laws".  Holder can order the Prosecutors to move cases forward, and to cooperate with the ATF when seeking warrants and bringing cases to trial.

      The rest of it is a DOJ slap at the same Arizona who has Maricopa County Sheriff (and noted "Birther") Joe Arpaio and anti-immigrant legislation SB 1070.

      Nothing more, nothing less.

    •  We certainly have lax laws. (0+ / 0-)

      However, we need to repeal most of the restrictions that we have.

    •  Lax US gun laws fuel the drug war? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      KVoimakas, IndieGuy

      So violent & greedy cartels, a weak and corrupt government, and a nearly insatiable appetite for drugs in the US combined with a pointless "war on drugs" has nothing to do with it?

      Wow-- so guns are banned, and people stop snorting coke and the drug cartels take up gardening; the Mexican government becomes run by unicorns and we can replace the border fence with a rainbow...

      Sounds like a deal. So. How does it work? I mean, Romney's convoluted, detail-free and factless cause-and-effect plans are openly ridiculed, so I know there's going to be an amazing and detailed account about how this all falls together.

      •  In response to above comments (0+ / 0-)

        I cant really understand most of the above responses to my comment. However, such responses do suggest why Obama and Romney are both running scared on the issue of gun control.

        I do agree with 43North's view that US drug policy is also a cause of the Mexican narco wars. I see no contradiction between banning mass sales of assault weapons and legalizing marijuana use. With harder drugs, I would say they should be available through treatment programs as part of a carefully supervised cessation program, much like nicotine patches and gum are useful for smoking cessation. And if you are unable  to ever get off heroin or the like, I'd rather upu get it by presciption than from illegal dealers.

        For the record, I am not opposed to gun ownership, but I don't see it as any kind of essential freedom. Owning guns, shooting them, hunting etc are for most of us simply outdoor hobbies, similar to fishing, kayaking, hiking etc. I like them all but guns are obvously more dangerous to others. (I can accidentally drown only myself by careless kayaking but if I shoot off a 30/06 carelessly, I can kill a guy on a tractor three miles away)

        Because gun ownership and use is merely a hobby, there is no reason not to closely regulate it when a situation develops where many people are endangered, as in the narco war on the other side of our southern border.

        As to any need for self-defense,  that is largely a fantasy. Most of us will be killed by our own gdenetics, our bad eating, drinking, smoking, driving or exercise habits or by sheer weight of years. Bad guys with guns are a statistically insignificant threat to anyone's life. And the chnace you can actually save your life by shooting the other guy first is astronomically small.

        If my soldiers were to begin to think, not one would remain in the ranks. -Frederick the Great

        by Valatius on Fri Aug 03, 2012 at 05:14:23 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  And I see gun ownership as a (0+ / 0-)

          civil right. Up there with freedom of speech and freedom to believe in whatever sky fairy you'd like.

          Republicans cause more damage than guns ever will. Share Our Wealth

          by KVoimakas on Fri Aug 03, 2012 at 05:19:28 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Gun ownership not essential in democracies (0+ / 0-)

            The right to speak freely and to express ideas is integral to democracy.

            This fundamental right is the essential tool of citizenship and of the representative bodies selected by citizens. The existence of a judicial system under which each citizen's rights are respected is also essential. These are the basics of any democracy anywhere, anytime.

            In democratic societies, the use of violence is given up by  citizens and restricted to the police and military. There is no society, democratic or otherwise, in which citizens are can use violence without authorization.

            Self-defense is an argument that can be made on behalf of a person on trial for using violence. Diminished capacity is another such argument. And it is up to a jury as to whether either defense provides mitigating circumstances for committing an act of violence.

            Gun ownership is not a basic right recognized by all democracies. It is a uniquely American notion that owning (and presumably using) a firearm ranks with the basic rights of expression recognized her and in all other democracies. To take just three examples from Japan to France to the Bahamas. Each of these three democratic societies have gun laws that Americans would find quite restrictive. None see it as an essential right.

            If my soldiers were to begin to think, not one would remain in the ranks. -Frederick the Great

            by Valatius on Fri Aug 03, 2012 at 08:14:47 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  The awful shocking truth? (19+ / 0-)

    That would be Direct Commercial Sales.

    By the Collision of different Sentiments, Sparks of Truth are struck out, and political Light is obtained. - Benjamin Franklin

    by oldpunk on Thu Aug 02, 2012 at 07:01:15 PM PDT

  •  Not sure about the lethality of the AR - 15 (10+ / 0-)

    12 dead 75 shot approximately?

    And when it jammed he used pistols. I wonder how many deaths are from the very small diameter 223, and how many from the much larger pistols he was carrying. I haven't been following the story much but most pistols are 9mm or larger. If I had to choose one to get shot with I guess that black gun would be my first choice. Because of their lack of lethality they aren't legal for deer here and in many states.

    Back to read rest of post. I'll comment further if I have anything to add.

    How big is your personal carbon footprint?

    by ban nock on Thu Aug 02, 2012 at 07:35:29 PM PDT

  •  When I livd in Mexico (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    hagagaga, Robobagpiper, KVoimakas

    there were fewer gun deaths in the cities of Zapotecas, Torren,and Gomez Placio than there are now. This is ground zero for the drug war. The drug wars brought about a huge rise in the number of people killed including 48 in a mass grave that all had their throats slit.

    But understand this the police do not pack pistols they pack sub machine guns, they also take bribes, and murdered the presidential candidate that was considered to be the Mexican version of JFK back some 15 years ago. Many also moonlight for the drug cartels

    They have weapons legally imported from this country purchased by their government. They are rarely held accountable for their actions.

     Death and violence have been happening all along.We just never heard about them here. It has only been since the boarder towns became more dangerous and US citizens began getting shot that they began telling us.  The violence has escalated in recent years but that can also be  contributed partially to the breakdown of their eonomic system after NAFTA was enacted.

    God help them with the drought and corn crop failures it is about to get mch worse there. It breaks my heart.

    It is the heart that makes a man rich. He is rich according to what he is not what he has -Henry Ward Beecher

    by PSWaterspirit on Thu Aug 02, 2012 at 10:00:53 PM PDT

  •  Mexican drug cartels' weapons (3+ / 0-)

    "As a first step, President Obama should enforce the existing ban on the importation of assault rifles. Second, he should give the ATF the resources and authority it needs to actually do its job, especially in border-states, where it lacks the capacity to stop the massive flow of arms across the border."
    1. No assault rifle has been imported since 1968, aside from incidents such as the Chinese state arms manufacturer smuggling a few thousand Type 56 assault rifles (Chinese copy of the AK-47 and AKM) into the United States.
    2. No, the BATFE needs to be disbanded. Law enforcement in the United States has become too powerful and too militarized. The only national law enforcement agencies that should exist are the Secret Service, the FBI, the US Marshals' Service, and the Coast Guard.

    "it is time to enact meaningful gun control legislation in this country."
    No, it is not. It is time to repeal the 1934 National Fireams Act, the 1968 Gun Control Act, and the Hughes Amendment to the 1986 Firearm Owners' Protection Act.

    90% of the firearms traced to the United States are from Mexican military, Mexican police, Honduran military, Honduran police, Nicaraguan military, or Nicaraguan police.

    70-90% of firearms submitted to ATF for tracing come from the United States including the above-mentioned ones.

    The vast majority aren't submitted for tracing because they can be immediately identified as not coming from the United States (for example, real AK-47's).

    The vast majority of firearms used by drug cartels are from the international black market. This comes primarily from former Soviet states (which were left with large quantities of weapons that they had nothing do with, as well as fairly corrupt governments; while the Soviet Union existed, their military intelligence, the GRU, had near-total control over the international black market) and China (in fact, the reason why their state arms manufacturer is banned from having their products imported into the United States is because of events such as smuggling several thousand AKM-type assault rifles into the United States and attempting to sell anti-aircraft weapons to an ATF agent posing as a representative of Oakland's gangs). In fact, some of the firearms used by drug cartels are equipment that the US left behind when withdrawing from Vietnam.

  •  Let me get this straight. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Canis Aureus

    The gun industry benefits from the extremely low incidence of straw purchasing because by the time a firearm ceases exchanging hands it can net up to a quadruple mark up in Mexico?  Even though that's money the manufacturer and the original dealer never see, and at its sold at a price point that would make even the most diehard cartel enforcer blanch?

  •  How about we end the drug war? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    KVoimakas, IndieGuy

    Instead of infringing on people's rights.

    I don't know which lie to believe anymore.

    by Captain Janeway on Fri Aug 03, 2012 at 05:12:46 AM PDT

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