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Disarming the Cartels

Aug 28, 2009
By Beth Anne Macaluso


guns from Mexican drug cartels
Weapons seized from Mexican drug cartels. Photo by Emmanuel Salazar/Newscom

According to a recent report from the Associated Press, Mexican authorities are initiating a widespread campaign to destroy almost 80,000 illegal weapons—seized primarily in raids against drug cartels—that have been held for a decade or more in government warehouses. Even after the housecleaning, more than 35,000 weapons, which the government requires for evidence in criminal investigations, will still remain in storage. Given that Mexico has some of the world’s strictest gun laws, this astounding quantity of weapons immediately raises a question: where all the guns are coming from?

As FLYP reported last summer in its article, “Guns Without Borders,” officials in both Washington, D.C. and Mexico City believe that about 95 percent of the illegal weapons discovered during gun raids in Mexico come from U.S. states with relatively lenient gun control laws, such as Texas and Arizona. These states place no restrictions on the number or type of weapons that may be purchased.

Furthermore, many of the weapons seized by Mexican police are high-powered, military-quality assault weapons that were never intended for civilian use. Over 11,000 deaths have occurred in Mexico’s struggle against these powerful cartels, which rely on a constant stream of illegal firearms.

The American discourse surrounding the 2,000-mile Mexican-American border is often incredibly one-sided. Mexico receives a great deal of blame for the role it plays in allowing illegal drugs to move north into the U.S. What is rarely discussed, however, is the key part American weapons-dealers play in helping the Mexican cartels maintain their arsenals.

The illegal drug trade feeds off of the illegal gun trade, and American authorities—most notably, the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives—are working to step up their efforts to prevent the movement of U.S. guns and ammo south of the border.

Officials in Washington are realizing that Mexico’s fight against its cartels isn’t Mexico’s problem alone; it’s now an issue of America’s own national security.

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