Mexican Drug Lords Get A Helpful Hand from the NRA

By Maer Roshan 08/12/11

As deaths on the Mexican border multiply into the thousands, DC's most powerful lobby threatens to kill a new federal regulation that requires area gun-shops to keep an eye on people who purchase military-style rifles in bulk.


70% of drug-related deaths in Mexico are traced to US-made guns Photo via

Mexico's murderous drug gangs, embroiled in a bloody turf war that has resulted in thousands of deaths just this year, have found support from an unexpected ally, the National Rifle Association. The powerful  pro-gun lobbying group recently filed suit against the Obama administration, seeking to shoot down a recent federal regulation that requires gun merchants operating along the Mexican border to keep records on customers who purchase multiple assault weapons, such as the AK-47, a favorite of Mexican drug cartels. 

Law enforcement officials responded angrily to the group's lawsuit. The disputed regulation was imposed by the US Department of Justice (DoJ) several months ago in an attempt to make it more difficult for so-called "straw buyers" to obtain large numbers of military-style weapons and smuggle them south, where they have frequently been used to kill Mexican gangsters, many civilians as well as US law enforcement agents. It is illegal to sell these firearms in Mexico.

But the NRA—vigilant against any infringements on the rights of "hunters" to bear machine guns and bazookas—was quick to oppose the measure. "The NRA has always viewed this as a blatant attempt by the Obama administration to pursue their gun control agenda through back-door rule-making," said longtime NRA executive VP Wayne La Pierre, who complained that the rule would be unfair to gun dealers because it would threaten "the privacy rights of their customers and deter their business." 

While over 60% of Americans support gun control measures, The NRA is regularly ranked by members of Congress as one of the most powerful and feared lobbying groups on Capitol Hill. In 2009 the group spent billions of dollars and mobilized its 4.5 million members to promote a nationwide media blitz accusing the newly inaugurated Obama as a radical opponent of the Second Amendment who was determined to strip US citizens of their arms and ammunition. Instead, national firearm sales have almost doubled during his presidency, while gun-control advocates have slammed Obama for his general silence on the entire issue.

Responding  to the group's lawsuit,  Attorney General Eric Holder said that Federal prosecutors would "very vigorously" oppose the NRA's action, noting that American authorities have long tried to monitor the activities of gun shops along the border. Not long ago, The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) spent a year tracking the operations of a network of straw purchasersmostly Americans who buy guns in their own names and ferry them to Mexican drug lordsbut the operation, dubbed Fast and Furious, took an embarrassing turn. The ATF soon lost track of not only most of the suspects but also their huge cache of weapons.Two of the firearms tracked by the ATF later turned up at the scene of a shootout in which an American Border Patrol agent was killed. On Wednesday, the ATF chief who planned the failed gun operation on the Mexican border was stripped of his position.

But his replacement will surely attempt to stem the continuing flow of arms in to Mexico. Hauling drugs into the US earns Mexican cartels some $13 billion a year, but its not exactly a safe business. The Mexican government has estimated that over 35,000 of its citizens were killed in drug-related gun violence from 2007 to 2011. They further report that  70% of all firearms recovered from crime scenes had originated in the US, which kind of brings up an indelicate question: Exactly hat kind of hunters is the so vigilantly NRA protecting? But it's not like the group has been totally oblivious to the bloodshed. Recently, the organization produced a lavish ad campaign urging Americans to protect themselves against cartel violence by purchasing their own firearms.

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Maer Roshan is an American writer, editor and entrepreneur who has launched and edited a series of prominent magazines and websites, including,, NYQ, Punch!, Radar Magazine and You can find him on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.