For Release: Friday, July 15, 2011
Bill is Critical to Efforts to Prevent the Trafficking of Military-Style Firearms to Drug Organizations in Mexico
Washington, D.C.–Today at a Capitol Hill press conference, the Violence Policy Center (VPC) strongly endorsed legislation introduced by Representatives Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Elijah Cummings (D-MD) to help stem the flood of military-style firearms from the United States to Mexico and other countries in the Western Hemisphere.
The bill would create a federal anti-trafficking statute, something, shockingly, that current law lacks. This gaping hole in federal gun laws has helped make the United States a beacon for international gun traffickers.
“The U.S. civilian gun market is stocked with military-grade weapons–both domestically manufactured and imported–and has extraordinarily weak controls over their sale. This has transformed the United States into a virtually unregulated bazaar of military-style firearms. Traffickers can stock up on their weapons of choice: AK-47 and AR-15 assault rifles and pistols, 50 caliber sniper rifles, and high-capacity armor-piercing pistols. Why do the bad guys come here? Because that’s where the guns are,” states Kristen Rand, VPC legislative director.
The flood of militarized weapons from the U.S. is helping fuel the drug violence in Mexico that has already claimed 40,000 lives since 2007. The “Stop Gun Trafficking and Strengthen Law Enforcement Act of 2011” would provide U.S. law enforcement with a crucial tool that would allow them to more aggressively and effectively target individuals who participate in the gun trafficking rings that smuggle thousands of firearms across the U.S.-Mexico border. Law enforcement officials have bluntly told Congress that the lack of a federal anti-trafficking statute significantly hampers their ability to disrupt massive trafficking schemes in which traffickers hire networks of “straw buyers” to purchase guns that end up in the hands of Mexican drug organizations.
The dire need for this measure is illustrated by intelligence gained from a recently captured leader of the infamous Zeta drug organization. Jesus Enrique Rejon Aguilar told Mexican officials that the drug organizations get virtually all of their guns in the United States. Their main impediment, he said, is not acquiring them, but rather moving them across the border. This demonstrates the urgent need for the U.S. to begin implementing strategies–like the “Stop Gun Trafficking and Strengthen Law Enforcement Act of 2011”–that will prevent traffickers from obtaining military-style firearms in the first place.