The United States needs to define a comprehensive strategy aimed at disrupting the traffic of arms to Mexico. This strategy must emphasize preventive initiatives on both sides of the border alongside effective controls on the sale of weapons at gun shows in the United States. Renewing the U.S. ban on assault weapons would help curb some the movement of these lethal military weapons to Mexico.
The United States should also examine more southbound traffic, and in turn Mexico must examine a lot more of what is coming into the United States. Right now Mexico barely stops any cars coming into Mexico from the United States. Just as Mexico often says the United States has a drug-demand problem and needs to address it, the same can now be said for Mexico’s firearms-demand problem, and can do more at the points of entry.
To improve the effective and timely exchange of intelligence on major U.S.-based trafficking of weapons handled by organizations with links to Mexican and Central American criminal organizations, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives needs increased resources to investigate straw purchasers and rogue licensed firearms dealers in the United States. Many of Mexico’s guns seem to be coming from a combination of small minority of rogue gun dealers, legitimate gun dealers who unknowingly sell to non-prohibited purchasers who then intend to give the guns to a third party—so-called “straw purchases”—and sales at gun shows. More resources would greatly help investigations at these places.
In addition, the ATF needs to increase its presence in Mexico at our consulates and work more closely with Mexico law enforcement to trace weapons back to U.S. dealers. Much of this has already begun in the form of Spanish eTrace and Project Gunrunner, which were established to disrupt firearms trafficking between the United States and Mexico by allowing the ATF to identify drug trafficking firearm trends by facilitating the paperless exchange of gun crime data in a secure web-based format. But more can be done. The Department of Homeland Security, however, should remain the lead on these efforts and should direct the ATF to work closely with other law enforcement agencies, such as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, in operations to:
- Interdict weapons crossing U.S. borders.
- Devise new programs to share tracing capabilities with the appropriate Mexican authorities.
- Close off trafficking corridors.
- Expand actionable, real-time intelligence cooperation.
- Aggressively pursue prosecutions, interdictions and arrests of individuals seeking to move firearms across the border.
- Establish a specific program to trace and disrupt the trafficking to Mexico of high-powered, military grade weaponry.
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