U.S. Can Act Immediately to Halt Import of AK-47 Assault Rifles Fueling Gun Violence on U.S./Mexico Border, VPC Tells Congress

For Release: Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Bush Administration Abandoned Enforcement of Existing Law that Could Help Stop the Proliferation and Smuggling of Military-Style Guns Favored by Mexican Drug Cartels

Washington, D.C.—The Obama Administration could act immediately to stop the import into the U.S. of AK-47-type assault rifles that have become one of the favored weapons of Mexican drug cartels, Violence Policy Center (VPC) Legislative Director Kristen Rand told a Congressional subcommittee today. For a copy of Rand’s testimony, please see http://vpc.org/randtestify.pdf.

“Enforcement of the existing ban on the importation of foreign-made assault rifles would have significant impact on the firepower available to Mexican drug cartels,” Rand testified before the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The ban was first implemented by the George H.W. Bush Administration in 1989 and is separate from the now-expired federal assault weapons ban. It does not require congressional action to be enforced or modified.

“Unfortunately,” stated Rand, “the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)—the federal agency charged with enforcing the import ban—has allowed the ban to collapse and has even helped to create loopholes to circumvent it, such as allowing importers to bring foreign-made assault weapons into the country in parts.” Rand pointed out that ATF officials have stated in congressional testimony that Mexican drug lords increasingly seek military-style weapons easily available on the U.S. civilian market, including AK-47-type assault rifles.

Rand told the subcommittee that President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder could immediately direct ATF to strictly exercise its statutory authority to stop the importation of all semiautomatic assault rifles as “non-sporting” weapons under existing provisions of the 1968 Gun Control Act. “Cutting off these imports is a simple, effective measure the U.S. government can take right now to ratchet down the firepower available to the drug cartels wreaking havoc along the U.S./Mexico border,” said Rand.

The Violence Policy Center has issued numerous studies on the increasing lethality of military-bred civilian firearms legally available in the United States. These reports are available at www.vpc.org.

“ATF is undermining its own law enforcement efforts on the U.S./Mexico border by allowing importers to skirt the assault weapons import ban, a law that was put in place to reduce the firepower available to U.S. drug traffickers. These weapons are coming into the country by the thousands, are being acquired by traffickers who smuggle them into Mexico, and are used to attack law enforcement, public officials, and innocent bystanders,” said Rand.




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