It looks as if someone hasn't forgotten gun dealers, however, and the role they play in straw purchasing and illegal trafficking of guns. ThinkProgress has an article up this week about it -- a new study on guns and gun violence in Mexico, suggesting that many gun dealers in America depend on gun trafficking to Mexico, that they would go out of business without it.
ThinkProgress explains the latest research, coming out of researchers from San Diego and Brazil, looking to explain Mexico's problem with guns and gun violence. In a situation I find reminiscent of Chicago, Mexico's gun laws are much stricter than ours, yet their society is flooded with illegal guns -- guns from America.
Researchers at the University of San Diego’s Trans-Border Institute and Brazil’s Igarapé Institute put together a groundbreaking model to determine why Mexico, which possesses some of the toughest gun laws in the world, is so awash in firearms. In constructing their report — Way of the Gun: Estimating Firearms Traffic Across the U.S.-Mexico Border — the authors used the number of Federal firearms licenses (FFL) issued to sell small arms to create a demand curve, based on the distance by road from the seller to the nearest point on the U.S.-Mexico border to estimate a total demand for trafficking, both in terms of guns sold and the amount the industry took in.The study points out how many gun dealers happen to reside in the border region with Mexico, facilitating illegal gun trafficking, and that almost all of the guns taken into Mexico come from the U.S.
U.S. and Mexican authorities recognize that a large quantity of firearms, ammunition, and explosives sold legally in the United States are trafficked illegally into Mexico, primarily through overland smuggling routes across the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border (Goodman & Marizco, 2010; Violence Policy Center, 2009). AT F efforts to trace firearms provided in Mexico have consistently found that an overwhelming proportion of firearms - as high as 90% - came to Mexico from the United States (Serrano, 2008).12 For example, a 2007 AT F trace of firearms confiscated in Mexico found that 1,805 (73.5%) of 2,455 firearms came from three of the four U.S. border states: Arizona, California, and Texas (Marks, 2006). Likewise, a Government Accountability Office (GA O) report found that of 4,000 weapons traced by AT F (from an original sample of 7,200 serial numbers sent from Mexico), some 3,480 (87%) could be traced to US dealers (McGreal, 2011). The accessibility of firearms in the border region is facilitated by the existence of an estimated 6,700 FFLs in the border region, which represent more than 12.5% of all registered gun dealers in the country.13I find it curious how selective the emphasis is on enforcement of border security. It seems as if we can't put enough funding into the Border Patrol, and even President Obama seems unwilling to curtail his record-setting deportations of the undocumented. Where's the fire, though, for stopping American guns from slipping across the border into Mexico? Does the NRA's obsession with unfettered gun sales extend to slaughtering the people of Mexico? What about their rights, and their laws? ThinkProgress puts Republican intransigence into proper perspective: the GOP and the NRA's obstructionism kills.
This research helps further explain Mexico’s 16 percent surge in homicides seen following the expiration of the Assault Weapons Ban in the U.S. The study’s authors recommend several steps that can be taken to reduce the amount of gun trafficking across the border, including increasing background checks to help identify straw purchasers. Unfortunately, Senate Republicans — including Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) who denied a trafficking problem exists — blocked such a provision when voting down gun law reforms this year.The study's recommendations don't stop with background checks, however. They point out the woeful inadequacy of the ATF on this issue, suggesting that simple bans aren't enough -- after all, what good is a law that isn't enforced? And the NRA naturally deserves blame for its ongoing efforts to undermine and defund the ATF. Yes, of course the ATF still has only an Acting Director, and their inability to enforce the law comes courtesy of the NRA. Even in the middle of averting the latest manufactured government-shutdown fiasco, Republicans had time to do the NRA's bidding and cripple the ATF some more.
So, the study's recommendations include:
- Publish disaggregated data on gun sales: Providing data on where gun sale tax revenues are allocated by county would help to determine an approximate number of guns being sold in specific parts of the border region, thereby helping law enforcement to identify unusual activity that should be investigated.
- Undertake more sophisticated background checks: A “clean record” is, by definition, an unhelpful criterion when identifying possible straw purchasers. The National Institute of Justice should call for research and analysis to help develop methodologies for identifying straw purchaser profiles that could be used to trigger further investigation of illicit purchases of firearms when an individual submits an application for a background check.
- Prohibit cash transactions for gun purchases along the U.S.-Mexico border: Border states or the federal government should enact legislation to prohibit the use of cash to purchase firearms along the border. Requiring a check or credit card for all firearms and ammunition purchases with an FFL will help to ensure that funds used to buy guns at legitimate establishments will not originate from illicit business activities.
- Support the development of a Mexican gun seizure database: While current U.S. laws prevent AT F and other government agencies from storing information on firearms and traces, Mexican authorities can and should consider establishing their own database of illegal firearms seized. Such a resource could prove useful in combatting crime domestically, but would also be an asset in working with U.S. authorities to investigate illegal gun trafficking.
- Increase ATF-FFL Cooperation: The majority of FFLs are law-abiding businesses. They may appreciate a chance to work with the AT F to determine more effective mechanisms for government regulation, industry self-regulation, and reporting.