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Guns and the Border


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#1 Chris

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Posted 06 March 2009 - 03:01 PM

http://blog.contempo...and-the-border/

Guns and the Border

Mexico is in a desperate struggle for survival in her battle against the Mexican drug cartels that control the smuggling of cocaine and other illegal drugs into the United States. President Felipe Calderon has committed thousands of Mexican Army troops to the border cities where they are battling the three major drug cartels. By some accounts the number of armed henchmen loyal to the cartels still outnumbers the military forces sent to quell them. In a recent interview, President Calderon expressed his frustration in dealing with the cartels when he was critical of the United States calling it corrupt and in need of a change in attitude. He was referring to the facts that the money and guns supplying the cartels come from the United States not Mexico. The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has confirmed that at least 90% of the weapons captured in cartel hands can be traced to illegal gun sales in the United States. These weapons are not just classic sporting weapons but include many military grade firearms such as such as M16 and AK-type weapons, as well as .30-caliber machine guns, 66-millimeter anti-tank weapons, and .50-caliber Barrett rifles.





The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars published an academic evaluation of the weapons trafficking problem in January 2009. They recommended that steps needed to be taken to identify illegal gun purchasers and track them to the cartels.



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Placing additional ATF agents to monitor the almost 7000 federally licensed firearms dealers along the border
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Increasing specials agents dedicated to investigating illegal tracking to Mexico
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Standardizing background checks and tightening regulations at gun shows
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Providing a mechanism for anonymous tips to report suspicious activity
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Make available in Mexico a Spanish version of the e-trace system for illegal weapons
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Reinstating assault rifle bans
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Closer regulation of .50 sniper weapons and armor piercing ammunition
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Repealing the Congressional prohibition of release of data from the ATF’s database to allow assessment of policies



The ATF has started a program called the Southwest Border Initiative or “Project Gunrunner” to stem the illegal trafficking of firearms across the border and to reduce the firearms violence occurring on both sides of the border. This involves $10 million in funding is hiring 37 ATF employees to open, staff (via new hire and relocation of senior personnel,) equip, and operate new Project Gunrunner criminal enforcement teams in McAllen, TX; El Centro, CA; and Las Cruces, NM (which includes a subordinate satellite office in Roswell, NM.). Additionally, these funds support the assignment of two special agents to each of the U.S. consulates in Juarez and Tijuana, Mexico to provide direct support to Mexican officials on firearms-trafficking-related issues.



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Legal arms dealers are receiving instruction on how to identify suspicious potential customers who may be buying guns for the cartels. Key indicators suggested include looking for traffickers that:
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Want to buy a large number of the same model firearm, or similar firearms.
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Choose only tactical type semiautomatic rifles (.223 or 7.62×39) and large frame semiautomatic pistols (.38 Super, 9mm, .45 and 5.7mm)
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Order more of the same firearms.
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Structure their purchases to avoid ATF reporting requirements.
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Attempt to conceal their conversations with each other.
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Not haggle or question the price of the firearm. Money is usually not an issue.
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Pay in cash (no checks) with the same denomination. They may use credit cards.
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Have little or no knowledge of the firearms they are purchasing.
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Lack the physical stature to handle the firearm being purchased.
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Avoid entering into conversation or be evasive in any questions posed to them.



No doubt many Texans and others that live on the border will see some of these suggestions as infringements on their right to bear arms. There is a real argument to be made that too much attention to legal transactions to legal buyers wastes time and resources that are better directed towards finding illegal sales. Complete prohibition of assault weapons would only create considerable political confrontation.





The real issue for both countries is how to monitor what is crossing the border. How to stop drugs from Mexico to the U.S. and guns from the U.S. to Mexico while at the same time allowing the necessary heavy flow of everyday legal commerce between the two countries which is so vital to their economies?



Everyone agrees that one’s right to privacy and freedom from search without a warrant does not extend at border crossings. Complete physical searches of persons and vehicles by old fashioned techniques is too timely and will interfere unacceptably with the necessary flow of traffic. Instead there should be considerable research directed into developing technologies similar to what is used at airports and ports to be better able to screen for drugs and weapons.



The $ 70 billion dollar border fence project is a complete debacle in it’s current form. To assure border security there must a bilateral plan of both Mexico and the United States to patrol and secure their border together. The money will be better spent on increasing the agents of both countries which patrol the border and giving them better tools such as sophisticated monitoring devices.



As pointed out by the Woodrow Wilson report at least $25 billion dollars goes into Mexico from illegal U.S. drug sales every year. There a two ways that the money is transferred: a series of covert electronic transactions or bulk transfer across the border. The cartels do business in the United States because they know they can reliably get their money back to Mexico. There are some estimates that as much as $ 2 trillion of illegal drug cartel money is laundered between the United States and Mexico per year.





According to the United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention the most common type of laundering scenario involves transferring funds into the account of conspirator who has issued him or her an invoice for products or services never delivered. Next, the accomplice adds a deceptive layer of complexity to the process by wire-transferring those funds, in relative anonymity, to a bank account in a laxly regulated “offshore” jurisdiction. The account holder then “lends” the money to the person who paid the fake invoice. In the final step, the first criminal integrates his or her money into the economy by purchasing real estate and other legitimate assets with large amounts of difficult-to-trace—but illegally earned—cash.



During the Miami era of the “Cocaine Cowboys” in the early 1980s many officials turned a blind eye to the illegal money laundering which was rampant in South Florida. Without an approach to money laundering no enforcement proposal has a chance. According to the Los Angeles Times, the United States Treasury department blacklists individuals and companies suspected of involvement in the drug trade while their counterparts in Mexico take little action. Mexican laws many times do not per se recognize the concept of money laundering. Because many of the countries elite industrialists and film stars avoid paying taxes through a labyrinth of secrecy laws which government officials are loath to change even if it would be an effective way to combat drug cartels they basically let criminals keep all their proceeds.



The Mexican President was justified in his frustration of the current situation but both countries can do more to fight the drug cartels then they are currently doing.



Tony Magaña grew up in McAllen Texas, attended Texas A&M University, served as an officer in Army Reserve, and holds a doctorate from Harvard University. The co-founder of Contempo Magazine has participated in Valley business for over 20 years.He is a member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.


Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.
- Edmund Burke

It's nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice.

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#2 Jeff Johnson

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Posted 06 March 2009 - 05:39 PM

Why don't we meet them at the border and trade them illegal immigrants for guns?

#3 Lion of Lincoln

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Posted 06 March 2009 - 07:05 PM

Why don't we meet them at the border and trade them illegal immigrants for guns?


Sounds good to me. We'll get rid of the illegals among us, and then acquire arms we never had to begin with.