Where Drug Cartels Really Get Their Arms

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When all is said and done, only 17 percent of the guns seized by the Mexican authorities from the drug lords were actually traced back to the U.S. The incorrect assumption that 90 percent of the cartels’ guns come from the U.S., though, continues to be regularly cited by the media and officials. The highly-respected STRATFOR intelligence company agrees that the statistic is incorrect. The group likewise explained that only 3,480 guns were traced back to the U.S., which equals 12 percent of the total arms seized by the Mexican authorities in 2008 and less than 48 percent of those sent for tracing.

“According to the figures presented by the GAO [Government Accountability Office], there is no evidence to support the assertion that 90 percent of the guns used by the Mexican cartels come from the United States—especially when not even 50 percent of those that were submitted for tracing were ultimately found to be of U.S. origin,” STRATFOR concluded.

In addition, it simply doesn’t make sense for the Mexican drug cartels to make the U.S. their primary point of gun acquisition. As Howard Nemerov writes, “Why would cartels spend over $1,000 — plus a background check and smuggling risks — for a decent American semi-automatic rifle, when they can buy 4-5 fully automatic AK-47s for the same price on the black market?”

Even if it were true that U.S. gun laws are responsible for the violence in Mexico, these arms have to cross the porous border to end up being used in the drug war. Securing the border is a much more sensible solution than severe gun control laws, which wouldn’t be able to stop already-purchased guns from going south. This obvious fact isn’t mentioned because the Mexican government and left-wing politicians would rather portray gun control, rather than border security, as the solution. Furthermore, even if the U.S. was no longer a source for guns, the drug cartels would still have other sources, heavy weapons would still flow through Guatemala, and the corrupt, inefficient and risk-averse Mexican police and military would still be unable to defeat the drug cartels.

If the past is any indication, the U.S. and its gun laws will still be blamed for the drug war in Mexico, but it is only a distraction. The violence in Mexico continues to spiral out of control, and until the real problems and solutions are addressed, the death toll will only climb.



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  • Steve Chavez

    COLUMBUS NEW MEXICO, bordering northern Mexico.

    COLUMBUS, N.M. — The sheriff for Luna County is requesting that the entire Columbus Police Department step down until the federal investigation involving city leaders in a firearms trafficking ring is over. Sheriff Raymond Cobos asked the remaining trustees in Columbus to vote on having the police department step down.
    City leaders in the southern New Mexico village of Columbus were arrested Thursday in a federal raid investigation that involved smuggling firearms from the United States to Mexico, Luna County sheriff officials confirmed.
    “I'm dismayed, I'm disheartened, certainly disillusioned,” said Cobos. “I think violation of the public's trust is something that I categorize as a pretty heinous crime.”
    Mayor Eddie Espinoza, Police Chief Angelo Vega and city Rep. Jose Blas Gutierrez were arrested on allegations of firearm violations, stated the indictment that was released Thursday afternoon by the U.S. attorney's office in New Mexico. Espinoza was charged with one count of conspiracy, three counts of making false statements in connection with acquisition of firearms and three counts of firearms smuggling. Vega was charged with one count of conspiracy. Gutierrez was charged with one count of conspiracy, seventeen counts of making false statements in connection with acquisition of firearms and 19 counts of firearms smuggling.
    In all, 10 people were arrested when law enforcement authorities executed a search warrant at their homes, one place of business and the office of the Columbus Police Department.

    Elizabeth Martinez, spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office, said the defendants purchased about 200 firearms from Chaparral Guns in Chaparral, N.M., which is owned and operated by defendant Ian Garland.

    According to the indictment, the defendants purchased guns favored by the Mexican Cartels, including AK-47-type pistols, which are weapons resembling AK-47 rifles but with shorter barrels and without rear stocks, and American Tactical 9 mm pistols.
    The defendants obtained firearms from Chaparral Guns by falsely claiming they were the actual purchasers of the firearms, when in fact they were acting as "straw purchaser" who were buying the firearms on behalf of others, the indictment alleges.

    Law enforcement officers seized 40 AK-47 type pistols, 1,580 rounds of 7.62 ammunition, and 30 high-capacity magazines from the defendants before they crossed the U.S.-Mexico border. The indictment alleges that 12 firearms previously purchased by the defendants later were found in Mexico and were traced back to these defendants.

  • ObamaYoMoma

    I hope people are paying attention to this assault on the 2nd amendment.by the Left.

  • Reason_For_Life

    The "War on Drugs" began with the insistence on the part of law enforcement that they needed "No knock" warrants allowing police officers to break down doors and burst in unannounced. We were assured that no further stretches of the Fourth Amendment's requirement for searches would be necessary.

    Over the years the occasional "No knock" raid became full out assaults by SWAT teams armed with military style weaponry in virtually every single arrest.

    We were then told that only by confiscating the profits of drug deals could the "enemy" be defunded and, of course, we were told that no further curtailment of the Fifth Amendment would be necessary.

    Over the years the confiscating of "drug deal money" became the random stopping of motorists who were ordered to surrender all of their cash because the officers involved "suspected" that the money was involved in a drug deal. There are entire counties where seizures account for most the local police department's funding.

    Now we are being asked to have just a few, minor restrictions placed on the rights recognized by the Second Amendment. Given the distortions of constitutional law that have been produced over the years in the name of the "War on Drugs" is there anyone who believes that this will not expand to arbitrary confiscation of weapons?

    The drug war has been a disaster. Just as the carnage on the streets of Chicago in the 1920's was directly the result of "Prohibition", the rise of the Mexican drug cartels is directly the result of the drug war. As the slaughter starts to cross the border we can expect even more demands for curtailing gun rights in the US.

    Individual rights are deeply interwoven. Violations of any one right will necessitate the violations of others. The drug war is a violation of the right of a person to put anything into his body that he wants to. Attempts to enforce this prohibition necessitated playing fast and loose with the Fourth and Fifth Amendments and soon, the Second Amendment as well.

    By ending the disastrous "War on Drugs" we will not only end the slaughter by Mexican gangs but will end the continual demands for more police power in the US and for even greater curtailment of the freedoms recognized and protected by the Constitution.

  • Zane

    Yes , the corruption is a factor, and yes not ALL guns come from the US , but the majority do! We've broken up rings of our own service men smuggling weapons from our war zones in the MidEast. Federal Marshalls stealing from Gov armories then handing them over to cartels. Not to mention the thousands of gunshops serving straw buyers. On top of that the ATF & there hair brained op! The biggest factor is our insatiable demand for drugs.
    You honestly believe if the cartels disappeared , so would the drugs? No way, the politicos would be the dominant narcos then. Cuz everyone wants a piece of the pie.

  • Zane

    By the way.. The people that profit the most from the supposed war on drugs ( more like "war for drug $ ) are the very same people that keep this absurd policy in place. Why? They own the publicy traded prisons that these people find themselves at after arrest. More prisoners = more $. Shares are traded based on the # of prisoners housed! It's slavery!
    The corruption isn't just in Mexico, American banks like Bank of America & Wachovia laundered billions for the cartels over the last cpl years? Did they do time? NO! They paid a fine. Ha.

  • voted against carter


    1. “Those who hammer their firearms into plows will plow for those who do not.” ~Thomas Jefferson

    2. Those who trade liberty for security have neither. ~John Adams

    3. Free men do not ask permission to bear arms.

    4. An armed man is a citizen. An unarmed man is a subject.

    5. Only a government that is afraid of its citizens tries to control them.

    6. firearms control is not about firearms; it’s about control.

7. You only have the rights you are willing to f i g h t for.

    8. Know g u n s, know peace, know safety. No g u n s, no peace, no safety.

    9. You don’t s h o o t to k i l l ; you s h o o t to stay alive.

    10. Assault is a behavior, not a device.

    11. 64,999,987 legal firearms owners k i l l e d no one yesterday.

    12. The United States Constitution (c) 1791. All Rights Reserved.

    13. The Second Amendment is in place in case the politicians ignore the others.

    14. What part of ‘shall not be infringed’ do you NOT understand?

15. Firearms have only two enemies; rust and politicians.

16. When you remove the people’s right to bear arms, you create s l a v e s.

    17. The American Revolution would never have happened with g u n control.

    • Fred Dawes

      We are all slaves we handed over our rights long ago its time to make a stand and people will not out of PC, But some of us will fight and all of you will call us nuts.

      BY The way to fight means to make rivers of blood and most will run-away.

  • voted against carter

    The detailed information Grassley included alerted the Phoenix office of a leak. The response from Assistant Special Agent in Charge George Gillette was to question and then to threaten the suspected whistleblower. News of this encounter got back to Grassley, who quickly drafted another letter objecting to the fact that the briefing his staff had requested had not yet been scheduled and that the actions of Gillette had been noticed and would not be tolerated.

    In the CBS report of March 3, 2011, Grassley characterized his interaction with the ATF as providing "practically zilch" as far as information. In the one briefing Grassley's staff finally arranged with the ATF a former Secret Service agent conducted the briefing despite the fact that he had no personal knowledge of the workings of the Phoenix office, nor had he been present during any of the events in Grassley's complaint.

    The tactic so infuriated Grassley that his office quickly sent off a scathing letter addressed to Eric Holder. In this letter issued on or near February 16th, Grassley responded to the so-called briefing:

    Specifically, they (those giving the briefing) refused to say whether the approximately 103 weapons seized according to the Jaime Avila indictment were the only seizures related to the nearly 770 weapons mentioned in the indictment. They refused to say whether the third assault rifle purchased by Avila in January 2010-the one not found at the scene of CBP Agent Brian Terry's shooting-has been recovered elsewhere.

    Then word began to spread of the shootings of two more federal agents, this time the victims were Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents working in Mexico. The agents were targeted by the Los Zetas drug cartel. To those close to the Project Gunwalker case, there was only one question on their minds: were the guns used to kill Jaime Zapata assault weapons allowed to be walked down south by their brothers in arms, the ATF?

    It is troubling that each time a federal agent is killed in the line of duty that the ATF knows exactly where to go to get information about the guns used. In the first case, the Terry case, Jaime Avila was arrested the day after the shooting even though he had been under surveillance for nearly 14 months.

    Again, the day after the shooting of Jaime Zapata arrests were made in a suburb of Dallas, Texas and the gun traced back to the suspects.

    By far the starkest information to come out of the CBS story dealt with the correlation between the guns being allowed to "walk" across the nation's southern border and the increased violence in Mexico. The story showed that the deadliest month on the border since 2005, March 2010, coincided with a time when 359 weapons had been purchased through the program. With having processed thousands of such sales it only stands to reason that there is a lot more of the story to come.

  • Jane Larson Baer

    Latino Drug gang-memebers bring in and out of Mexico~~some of the heroin street dealers in the gangs are illegal immigrants ("none documented cartel workers"?) but also the Cartel TRIES (with money, girls, power) to get children of Mexican illegal immigrants born in the US to join them in taking down the US>

    • Jane Larson Baer

      excuse me: above should read: "Latino Drug gang members bring guns in and out of Mexico~~"etc

      • Reason_For_Life

        So do what you can to keep drugs illegal so that the gangs are well financed.

        • Fred Dawes

          the banks like wells fargo laundered 338 billion and got fined only 100 million. that is the business of America

  • Questions

    As far as I am concerned, our best anti-drug policy would be to cease to admit any and all immigrants from Mexico and to kick out all the illegals from that country. They are nothing more than muscular Aztec children inhabiting the bodies of men. If we can't remove their guns, we can remove their bodies.

    Stop the Aztec invasion — now!!

  • Lightning jack

    I believe the pretense of the article is not denying that a small portion of the firearms used by the Mexican cartels may, in fact, come from the US, but the quantity is small and pails in comparison to the volume and lethality of weapons being smuggled in through Mexico's Guatemala border.

    The US government has the means, but not the political will to lock down and secure its entire southern border with Mexico. And until the Obama administration begins fighting this situation as a war, there will be no progress in eradicating weapons and drug smuggling on either side of the Mexican border.

  • Fred Dawes

    most of the real weapons come from Red China and yes some come from here, the question should be how long before the system comes apart and how long before you get attacked in your home how long before got to run for your life?

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