HomeNewsAnalysisUS to Crack Down on Arms Trafficking over Mexico Border
ANALYSIS

US to Crack Down on Arms Trafficking over Mexico Border

ARMS TRAFFICKING / 13 JUL 2011 BY GEOFFREY RAMSEY EN

The U.S. Justice Department has announced plans to cut arms trafficking into Mexico by monitoring the sale of assault rifles in border states, in the wake of a scandal over the "Fast and Furious" gun tracing operation.

According to Newsweek/The Daily Beast, which initially broke the story, the new rules could go into effect as early as next week. They will require gun stores to notify the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) when they sell two or more semi-automatic, magazine-loading weapons to an individual within a period of five business days.

According to a statement by Deputy Attorney General James Cole, the move is intended to crack down on the so-called “straw buyer phenomenon,” in which individuals with clean backgrounds purchase assault weapons in order to sell them to cartel middlemen. InSight Crime reported extensively on this trend in its GunRunners report.

Although the ATF is implementing an electronic system which will speed up background checks for handgun purchasers and make them easier to trace, the main target of the regulations seems to be the sale of assault weapons. "This new reporting measure -- tailored to focus only on multiple sales of these types of rifles to the same person within a five-day period -- will improve the ability of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to detect and disrupt the illegal weapons trafficking networks responsible for diverting firearms from lawful commerce to criminals and criminal organizations," Cole said.

Additionally, the department has mandated tougher penalties for straw buyers, hoping to deter people from aiding criminal groups.

The policy shift is expected to be met with major resistance by gun rights advocates, who claim that it amounts to a backdoor method of circumventing the Second Amendment without congressional approval. According to Politico’s Josh Gerstein, the National Rifle Association has vowed to sue the Obama administration the instant the ATF sends its first batch of information requests to gun dealers. However, they may have a difficult case on their hands, as the measures only catalogue purchases, and do not actually prevent them.

Another criticism of the new rules is that they come at a time when the ATF is facing heavy criticism for "Operation Fast and Furious," in which anti-drug officials allegedly allowed thousands of guns to “walk” over the border into Mexico, in an attempt to trace them back to known cartel members. When this was made public, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA) began a series of congressional investigations into the operation.

At the most recent of these, as Bloomberg reports, acting ATF director Kenneth Melson admitted to congressional investigators that some of the Mexican cartel members his agency targeted were paid informants of the Federal Buerau of Investigation and Drug Enforcement Agency, meaning that some of them could have potentially used tax payer money to purchase weapons illegally and smuggle them across the border for criminal purposes. While Senator Grassley and Representative Issa have expressed shock over this revelation, it’s impossible to know how frequently it occurred, and it is unclear how this differs from general “sting operation” tactics carried out by law enforcement. Still, the sensationalist announcement is sure to provoke further outrage amongst the gun control lobby, and provide further ammunition to those opposed to stronger gun control measures along the border.

Despite the storm of criticism facing the ATF, some in Congress have recognized the role that U.S. weapons play in fueling Mexico's drug war. Last month, three U.S. senators released a report, citing ATF data, which found that of the 29,284 firearms recovered by officials in Mexico in 2009 and 2010, 20,504 (70 percent) came from the United States. To remedy this, the group has called for a much stricter set of federal gun control regulations, endorsing a national law requiring background checks for all firearms purchases.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

MEXICO / 22 SEP 2015

The recent arrest of two Mexican nationals in Colombia illustrates that old money laundering practices die hard, an investigative report…

MEXICO / 16 APR 2015

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) employees are being recruited by Mexican cartels to help smuggle drugs across the US-Mexico border,…

ARMS TRAFFICKING / 25 NOV 2014

Endemic gun violence in Latin America and the Caribbean at times produces unintended -- and fatal -- consequences for victims…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Environmental and Academic Praise

17 JUN 2022

InSight Crime’s six-part series on the plunder of the Peruvian Amazon continues to inform the debate on environmental security in the region. Our Environmental Crimes Project Manager, María Fernanda Ramírez,…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Series on Plunder of Peru’s Amazon Makes Headlines

10 JUN 2022

Since launching on June 2, InSight Crime’s six-part series on environmental crime in Peru’s Amazon has been well-received. Detailing the shocking impunity enjoyed by those plundering the rainforest, the investigation…

THE ORGANIZATION

Duarte’s Death Makes Waves

3 JUN 2022

The announcement of the death of Gentil Duarte, one of the top dissident commanders of the defunct Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), continues to reverberate in Venezuela and Colombia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Cattle Trafficking Acclaim, Investigation into Peru’s Amazon 

27 MAY 2022

On May 18, InSight Crime launched its most recent investigation into cattle trafficking between Central America and Mexico. It showed precisely how beef, illicitly produced in Honduras, Guatemala…

THE ORGANIZATION

Coverage of Fallen Paraguay Prosecutor Makes Headlines

20 MAY 2022

The murder of leading anti-crime prosecutor, Marcelo Pecci, while on honeymoon in Colombia, has drawn attention to the evolution of organized crime in Paraguay. While 17 people have been arrested…