Twenty people have been arrested in Texas accused of being members of a ring which trafficked weapons to the Zetas drug gang, drawing attention again to the role of the US in supplying weapons to Mexican criminals.
The detainees are accused of forming part of a “straw buying” ring that provided at least 33 automatic rifles to the Mexican drug gang late last year. Ten of the 20 accused pleaded not guilty in a court in San Antonio, reported Notimex. According to the indictment, they claimed on the federal form for gun buyers that the weapons were for their personal use, when they were in fact buying them for the Zetas.
The indictment names a Mexican citizen as the ringleader of the group, who asked each buyer to purchase automatic weapons, paying them $300 per gun. He allegedly told one of the buyers that he was supplying the guns to the Zetas, reported the San Antonio Express-News website.
InSight Crime Analysis
The case is an example of a method commonly used by Mexican drug gangs to get weapons, commissioning “straw buyers,” who usually have clean criminal records, to circumvent laws that prevent foreigners from buying guns in the US. Once legally purchased, the guns are smuggled into Mexico. Indeed, last year a high-ranking member of the Zetas told the authorities that all of the group's guns were bought in the United States and smuggled into Mexico across the Rio Grande.
Despite some attempts by the Obama administration to stem the flow of weapons across the border, there is little political will for real reform to US gun control legislation. The furor over the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' (ATF) botched “Fast and Furious” operation, which critics say allowed guns to “walk” across the border in the hopes of building cases against more high-ranking criminals in Mexico, has made gun control reform an even more heated issue.
A recent piece in Fortune magazine, however, reported that contrary to the claims of Republican critics in Congress, the ATF never intentionally allowed guns to illegally move across the border.