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American Guns Are Fueling The Mexican Drug War

By May Wilkerson 01/18/16

Guns are being gobbled up by cartel buyers in the U.S. and smuggled back into Mexico.


A bulk of America’s illicit drugs come from Mexico, but we are sending our own dangerous cargo down south: guns.

The same routes that Mexico's drug cartels use to smuggle drugs into the United States are also being used to smuggle American guns and gun parts into Mexico, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The report, based on data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), found that 70% of the guns recovered from crime scenes in Mexico from 2009 to 2014 originated in the United States.

These firearms have contributed to the violence in Mexico, where an ongoing war among the drug cartels and between the cartels and Mexican security forces have led to more than 100,000 deaths in the country since 2007.

The drug cartels' preferred weapons are high-caliber rifles and semiautomatics, which can be converted into fully automatic machine guns after they cross the border. Cartel-hired gunrunners often buy these firearms legally in the United States and illegally ship them across the border, says the report.

But now, gunrunners are increasingly shipping gun parts across the border, where they are then assembled into finished firearms. This process is especially difficult to detect, because retailers are not required to report when they sell gun parts, minus the receiver (which can be purchased separately), so there is no paper trail. "They are also easy to conceal," says the GAO report, "making it more challenging for customs authorities to detect illicit shipments of such parts."

Regulating the flow of guns into Mexico has been complicated by the ATF’s lack of funding, as well as the United States continuing political struggle over gun control laws. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), who commissioned the report, said Congress could do more to "stop the illegal flow of guns across the U.S.-Mexico border" and accused Republicans of being "much more concerned with loosening already lax gun regulations than protecting citizens in both of our countries from gun violence."

There has also been strife between American and Mexican authorities, the report notes. In 2012, joint U.S.-Mexico efforts to reduce weapons trafficking were scaled back by Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, and there have been ongoing concerns over corruption among Mexican officials. According to the report, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in the U.S. "are concerned about sharing information with ICE officials based in Mexico, fearing that the information may unintentionally reach corrupt Mexican authorities and compromise their investigations."

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May Wilkerson is a writer, comic and Managing Editor @someecards. Co-host of the podcast Crazy; In Bed w/alyssalimp. She is also the top Google result for "insufferable lunatic." Follow this insufferable lunatic on Twitter.

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