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Column 053011 Wall

Monday, May 30, 2011

Hypocritically, U.S. Allows Gun Running to Mexico

By Allan Wall

Mexico is awash in weapons, many of which are used in drug cartel violence.  This is a big problem, but much of the rhetoric on both sides of the border has been unhelpful and counterproductive.  

Both Mexico’s Calderon administration and the U.S. Obama administration blame U.S. gun shops for the proliferation of guns in Mexico.  This concerns American firearms owners who think it may be used as an excuse to take away their gun rights.  

The gun smuggling problem is part of the lack of border security.  For various reasons, neither the U.S. nor the Mexican government really wants to secure the U.S.-Mexican border.  Otherwise it would have already happened.  If the political will existed, the U.S. government would have secured it long ago. 

The Mexican government wants to have it both ways.  Mexican leaders complain about any sort of border control restricting the movement of Mexican illegal aliens northward.  Yet they also complain that guns are being smuggled southward.

You can’t have it both ways.  If the border is porous, it is porous for illegal aliens, drug smugglers, arms smugglers and terrorists.  In reality, the unsecured border is a threat to both the U.S. and Mexico.

As for the arms, leaders of both countries have bandied about the famous 90% figure, that 90% of the illegal arms in Mexico have been traced to the United States.  That figure is incorrect.  Many of the weapons seized in Mexico cannot be traced as drug cartel operatives are not cooperative enough to always use traceable weapons.

Whence the famous 90% figure?  From 2007 to 2008 Mexican authorities confiscated 29,000 guns.  Of that total, 11,000 guns were sent to the U.S. in hopes that they could be traced, but only 6,000 of them could be traced.  Of those 6,000 traceable weapons, 90% could be traced to the U.S.  This 90% figure was transformed to the charge that 90% of the cartel weapons are from the U.S., and was used to attack American gun dealers.

Many of the U.S.-made guns in Mexico were sold directly by the U.S. government to the Mexican government, and somehow wound up in the hands of drug cartels.  This was the responsibility of the Mexican government, but it’s easier for Mexican leaders to attack American gun laws and gun dealers than to apprehend corrupt officials of their own government.

Other sources of weapons are deserting Mexican soldiers, and arms imported from Central America, Asia and Europe.  Mexico is an international arms bazaar and the drug cartels have plenty of money with which to buy the merchandise.

As if there weren’t enough weapons already in the hands of the cartels, the U.S. government had to go and make the problem worse in a misguided scheme that began during the Bush administration, and continued into the Obama administration. 

This crazy undercover scheme was run by a branch of the Department of Justice called the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives).  It was known as “Project Gunrunner,” or as it was called in Phoenix, Arizona, “Operation Fast and Furious.”

What the ATF did was intentionally allow guns to be sold illegally, in hopes that they would be purchased by cartel operatives and smuggled into Mexico.  The goal was to follow the weapons and catch “bigger fish.”

The much-vilified gun dealers, by the way, didn’t approve but were forced by the ATF to go along with it.

Apparently the scheme was a failure as far as catching smugglers and narcos, but it did get more guns into the hands of the cartels, thus adding to the already bad-enough mayhem in Mexico.  There may have been thousands of guns smuggled into Mexico with the blessing of the ATF.

It’s been estimated that at least 150 Mexicans were shot with these ATF-sponsored weapons, as was U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.

Besides the harm done in Mexico, think of the rank hypocrisy of it all.  The U.S. government (under both Bush and Obama) was hassling American gun owners and dealers, blaming them for the havoc in Mexico.  Simultaneously, that same U.S. government was intentionally sending weapons to the very cartels perpetrating that violence.

President Obama has denied any knowledge of the whole project, and the administration’s position is that Congress doesn’t have the right to investigate it!

So how’s that “transparency” we were promised, President Obama?

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Allan Wall, an educator, resided in Mexico for many years.  His website is located at http://www.allanwall.info

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