White House rejects ATF long gun reporting proposal
The White House Office of Management and Budget notified the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives last week that its request to require gun stores in four border states to report the multiple sales of certain long guns favored by Mexican cartels did not constitute an emergency under the law. Advocate groups like the National Rifle Association viewed the ruling as a significant victory. Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
Second Amendment: House Blocks Record-Keeping Regulation
Violence in Mexico by drug gangs with guns is all the fault of the United States. That seems to be the attitude of those at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATFE) who proposed a regulation forcing gun sellers in states bordering Mexico to report within five business days the multiple sales of certain semi-automatic weapons. As part of the backlash against an overly restrictive government, however, the House recently passed an amendment, authored by Reps. Dan Boren (D-OK) and Denny Rehberg (R-MT) to the 2011 fiscal year continuing budgetary resolution (H.R. 1) stripping funding for BATFE to enforce the restriction.
On another front cherished by gun-grabbers, a bill sponsored by Rep. Mike Ross (D-AR) to restore gun rights granted to District of Columbia residents by the Supreme Court’s Heller decision (and rescinded by the District’s City Council) is awaiting consideration — that bill is H.R. 645.
In their haste to enact more regulation, BATFE seems to have forgotten that existing law already allows the federal government to examine records at gun shops as a matter of course. Moreover, the proposal ignores the fact that Mexican drug cartels routinely purchase weapons on the black market. No law we enact will stop that, just as the gun restrictions piled on by the District of Columbia’s City Council haven’t stopped gun crime in DC. But facts can’t get in the way of circumventing the Second Amendment, can they?
Pentagon Fingered as a Source of Narco-Firepower in Mexico
Posted by Bill Conroy – February 12, 2011 at 8:44 pm
The Big Clubs in Mexico’s Drug War Aren’t Slipping Through the Gun-Show Loophole
Another series of leaked State Department cables made public this week by WikiLeaks lend credence to investigative reports on gun trafficking and the drug war published by Narco News as far back as 2009.
The big battles in the drug war in Mexico are “not being fought with Saturday night specials, hobby rifles and hunting shotguns,” Narco News reported in March 2009, against the grain, at a time when the mainstream media was pushing a narrative that assigned the blame for the rising tide of weapons flowing into Mexico to U.S. gun stores and gun shows.
Rather, we reported at the time, “the drug trafficking organizations are now in possession of high-powered munitions in vast quantities that can’t be explained by the gun-show loophole.”
Those weapons, found in stashes seized by Mexican law enforcers and military over the past several years, include U.S.-military issued rifles, machine guns, grenade launchers and explosives.
The State Department cables released recently by WikiLeaks support Narco News’ reporting and also confirm that our government is very aware of the fact that U.S military munitions are finding their way into Mexico, and into the hands of narco-trafficking organizations, via a multi-billion dollar stream of private-sector and Pentagon arms exports.
Narco News, in a report in December 2008 [“Juarez murders shine a light on an emerging Military Cartel”] examined the increasing militarization of narco-trafficking groups in Mexico and pointed out that U.S. military-issued ammunition popped up in an arms cache seized in Reynosa, Mexico, in November 2008 that was linked to the Zetas, a mercenary group that provides enforcement services to Mexican narco-trafficking organizations.
Tosh Plumlee, a former CIA asset who still has deep connections in the covert world, told Narco News recently that a special-operations task force under Pentagon command, which has provided training to Mexican troops south of the border, has previously “… found [in Mexico] hundreds of [U.S.-made] M-67s [grenades] as well as thousands of rounds of machine gun-type ammo, .50 [and] .30 [caliber] and the famous [U.S.-made] M-16 — most later confirmed as being shipped from Guatemala into Mexico as well as from USA vendors. …”
Similarly, an AP video report from May 2009 confirms that “M16 machine guns” have been seized from Mexican criminal groups engaged in the drug war.
“It’s unclear how cartels are getting military grade weapons,” the AP report states.
Narco News offered an answer to that question in March 2009, when it reported that the deadliest of the weapons now in the hands of criminal groups in Mexico, particularly along the U.S. border, by any reasonable standard of an analysis of the facts, appear to be getting into that nation through perfectly legal private-sector arms exports, measured in the billions of dollars.
Those exports are approved through the State Department, under a program known as Direct Commercial Sales. A sister program, called Foreign Military Sales, is overseen by the Pentagon and also taps U.S. contractors to manufacture weapons (such as machine guns and grenades) for export to foreign entities, including companies and governments.
Between 2005 and 2009, a total of $41 billion worth of U.S. defense articles were exported under the FMS program and a total of nearly $60 billion via the DCS program, according to a recent U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report. The bulk of those exports went to seven nations, including South Korea, but Mexico, too, was a receiving nation, with some $204 million in military arms shipments approved for export in fiscal year 2008 alone, according to the most recently available DCS report.
So, based on that evidence, it is clear that there is a grand river of military-grade munitions flowing out of major gun factories in the U.S. and being exported globally — completely bypassing the mom-and-pop gun store. That river of doom, however, does not bypass the drug war in Mexico.
The WikiLeaks Cables
Two separate diplomatic cables that came out of the U.S. consulate in Monterrey, Mexico, in early 2009 discuss drug war-related attacks on the U.S. consulate in that city as well as on a Monterrey TV station — with each incident involving the use of U.S. military grenades.
From a State Department cable created on Jan. 12, 2009, by the American Consul General in Monterrey and sent to the Secretary of State, U.S. Northcom and other U.S. consulates:
On January 6 the Televisa TV station in Monterrey was attacked by unknown assailants, who shot eight .40 caliber rounds into the station wall and threw a grenade over a fence into the parking lot, which exploded but did not injure anyone.
… The Consulate [in Monterrey] was attacked in a similar manner on October 11, 2008, and is located approximately one mile from the Televisa station.
… The investigators recovered the grenade fuse spoon, which appears to be from a US military M67 fragmentation grenade. ATF is investigating if any M67 grenades from this lot were exported to foreign militaries. The M67 grenade is different than the M26 grenade [an older U.S.-made grenade from the Vietnam era] used to attack the Consulate on October 11, but five M67 grenades were recovered during a raid several days after the Consulate attack in a Gulf Cartel warehouse. [Emphasis added.]
So the State Department cable makes clear that the attacks on the TV station and on the consulate itself involved military grade explosives made in the USA that somehow found their way to Mexico. A second cable issued in March 2009 lays out the plausible path those grenades followed on their journey to Mexico’s drug war.
From a cable issued by the U.S. Consulate in Monterrey on March 3, 2009, and sent to the Secretary of State, the FBI as well as various other consulates:
AmConsulate General Monterrey’s ATF Office, the ATF Explosives Technology Branch, and AmEmbassy Mexico DAO have been working with Mexican law enforcement authorities to identify the origin of various grenades and other explosive devices recovered locally over the past few months, including the unexploded M26A2 fragmentation grenade hurled at the Consulate itself during the October 11, 2008 attack. Other ordnance recovered includes 21 grenades recovered by Mexican law enforcement on October 16, 2008 after a raid at a narco-warehouse in Guadalupe (a working class suburb of Monterrey), and twenty-five 40mm explosive projectiles, a U.S. M203 40mm grenade launcher, and three South Korean K400 fragmentation grenades recovered the same day in an abandoned armored vehicle that suspected narco-traffickers used to escape apprehension.
Local Mexican law enforcement has recovered a Grenade spoon and pull ring from an exploded hand grenade used in a January 6, 2009 attack on Televisa Monterrey, a Monterrey television station. Based upon ATF examination, it appears that the grenade used in the attack on the Consulate has the same lot number, and is of similar design and style, as the three of the grenades found at the narco-warehouse in Guadalupe. On January 7, 2009, the Mexican Army recovered 14 [U.S.-made] M-67 fragmentation grenades and 1 K400 fragmentation grenade in Durango City, Durango. ….
The lot numbers of some of the grenades recovered, including the grenade used in the attack on Televisa, indicate that previously ordnance with these same lot numbers may have been sold by the USG [U.S. Government] to the El Salvadoran military in the early 1990s via the Foreign Military Sales program. We would like to thank AmEmbassy San Salvador for its ongoing efforts to query the Government of El Salvador as whether any of its stocks of grenades and other munitions have been diverted or are otherwise unaccounted for. [Emphasis added.]
Again, this is the U.S. state Department confirming that it suspects U.S. military munitions sold in the 1990s to a foreign military were subsequently diverted to Mexican narco-traffickers.
Narco News sources indicate that it is likely some of the U.S. military weapons now being used by Mexican narco-trafficking groups may be from a past era, but they also contend it is likely a number of those weapons, such as the guns, have been rebuilt for the current drug war.
Former CIA asset Plumlee told Narco News:
There was some talk among [U.S.] task force members about a … gun-making operation ongoing in or around Oaxaca, Mexico, more like a “refurbish” type operation from old stored weapons from the old Contra days (1980-‘90 era). [There’s] a lot of those weapons still around Panama and El Salvador. I was told most of those old weapons were “burned out” and of not much value. However, if there was a supplier or someone who could retrofit these weapons [they] could be fixed and moved just about anywhere….
And as food for thought on that front, a former U.S. Customs Inspector, who asked that his name not be used, brought to Narco News’ attention a federal criminal case now pending in U.S. court in Nashville.
In that case, five top officials with a gun manufacturer called Sabre Defence Industries LLC stand accused of illegally trafficking gun parts, such as gun barrels and components, on an international scale. Sabre, now shut down in the wake of its run-in with the feds, made and marketed assault rifles and machine-gun components for military, law enforcement and civilian use worldwide.
In fact, its biggest client was the U.S. military, which had awarded it contracts worth up to $120 million “for the manufacture of, among other things, M16 rifles and .50 caliber machine gun barrels,” according to the indictment returned in mid-January of this year against the company and its officers.
“The indictment unsealed today alleges a nearly decade-long scheme to thwart U.S. import/export restrictions on firearms and their components,” said Lanny A. Breuer, an assistant attorney general with the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division, in a press statement released on Feb. 8. “The defendants allegedly went to great lengths to conceal their activities and evade U.S. laws – mislabeling packages, falsifying shipping records, and maintaining a fictitious set of books and records, among other things. The illegal trade of firearms and their components poses serious risks and, as this case shows, we cannot and will not tolerate it.”
Federal authorities have not released any details on where the Sabre-made gun parts ended up, though the indictment alleges many of the parts were shipped overseas.
As a note of caution, however, the former Customs inspector points out that once a criminal group has a supply of parts, setting up a gun-making operation is not a complicated matter.
“For the small arms, and I would include, for simplicity, everything up to and including M2 .50 BMG machine guns, and even the 40 mm grenade launcher, M19, you can put them together on the kitchen table, or on the workbench in the garage,” the former inspector says.
For now, though, it simply is not known whether any of Sabre’s weapons parts ended up in gun-making chop shops south of the U.S. border, or elsewhere, or whether any of the M16s it made for the U.S. military were later provided to the Mexican government — via the FMS or DCS programs — and subsequently diverted by corrupt officials to narco-trafficking groups.
But the State Department cables recently made public by WikiLeaks do seem to confirm that the U.S. government is very aware that much of the heavy firepower now in the hands of Mexican criminal organizations isn’t linked to mom-and-pop gun stores, but rather the result of blowback from U.S. arms-trading policies (both current and dating back to the Iran/Contra era) that put billions of dollars of deadly munitions into global trade stream annually.
As the death toll mounts in the drug war now raging in Mexico, it pays to remember that weapons trafficking, both government-sponsored and illegal, is a big business that feeds and profits off that carnage. Bellicose government policies, such as the U.S.-sponsored Merida Initiative, that are premised on further militarizing the effort to impose prohibition on civil society only serve to expand the profit margin on the bloodshed.
Firearms Industry Responds to Mexican President’s Calls for the U.S. to Reinstitute Its Ban on Modern Sporting Rifles
NEWTOWN, Conn — Following calls by Mexican President Felipe Calderon that the United States re-institute a ban on modern sporting rifles, or so-called “assault weapons,” the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) — the trade association for America’s firearms industry — issued the following statement:
“While we respect the work of President Calderon to willingly take on his country’s powerful drug cartels, we are disappointed that he, in the name of security, would urge our Congress to reinstitute a failed ban on so-called ‘assault weapons.’
“Let’s be clear, semi-automatic rifles, demonized as so-called ‘assault weapons,’ are not machine guns but modern sporting rifles that are used every day by law-abiding Americans for the shooting sports, hunting and home protection. Since 2004, when the Clinton/Gore ‘assault weapons’ ban expired, modern sporting rifles have fast become one of the most popular types of firearms for law-abiding Americans to purchase.
“Firearms that Congress would label “assault weapons’ are functionally no different than any other semi-automatic civilian sporting firearm. They shoot only one shot per trigger pull, no spray firing as some allege, and use the same ammunition as other guns of the same caliber. What differentiates modern sporting rifles from other guns is cosmetic; for example, the type of stock on the firearm.
“According to the Department of Justice, so-called “assault weapons” are rarely used in crimes (less than 2 percent). Furthermore, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has established that banning firearms and ammunition have no effect on crime levels.
“Some 29,000 firearms were recovered in Mexico in 2008, of which approximately 5,000 were traced to U.S. sources. That means more than 80 percent of the firearms recovered in Mexico were not traced to the United States. Furthermore, according to the ATF, those firearms traced were originally sold at retail not recently, but on average 14 years earlier. This is completely inconsistent with any notion that a flood of newly purchased firearms are being illegally smuggled over the border into Mexico. And let’s not forget, no retail firearms sale can be made in the U.S. until after a criminal background check on the purchaser has been completed.
“In recent years as many as 150,000 Mexican soldiers, 17,000 last year alone, defected to go work for the drug cartels – bringing their American-made service-issued firearms with them. It has also been well documented that the drug cartels are illegally smuggling fully automatic firearms, grenades and other weapons into Mexico from South and Central America. Such items are not being purchased at retail firearms stores in the United States.
“Even more, investigations and regulatory compliance inspections by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) into firearms trafficking along the Southwest border have confirmed that firearms retailers are law-abiding businessmen and women who are playing a key role in detecting and deterring illegal purchases of firearms. As part of a Project Gun Runner Impact Team firearms trafficking operation, more than 1100 firearms retailers were inspected by ATF. Of these inspections only one retailer license was revoked. One.
“Members of the firearms industry take seriously the criminal acquisition and misuse of their products. This is why our industry supports the Southwest Border Violence Reduction Act of 2009, sponsored by Sen. Bingaman (D-NM) and Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D-TX), and will continue to work cooperatively with law enforcement. For nearly a decade our industry has partnered with the ATF in a national campaign called Don’t Lie for the Other Guy that makes the public aware that it is a serious crime to illegally straw purchase a firearm. The program also helps ATF to educate firearms retailers to be better able to detect and prevent illegal straw purchases. It is our hope that Don’t Lie will once again receive grant funding from the Department of Justice – a move that would allow NSSF and ATF to further expand this worthwhile program. For the last year, Don’t Lie has been financed entirely by members of the firearms industry.
“Again, we applaud President Calderon for taking steps to stop the cartels when past Mexican administrations paid only lip service and allowed rampant corruption to fester. Still, it is wrong for anyone to blame the Second Amendment and America’s firearms industry for the problems Mexico is currently facing.
“Sacrificing the constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans will not make Mexico safer – especially when the sacrifice is rooted in unfounded allegations and hyperbole. President Calderon would be doing both his country and ours a favor if instead of pushing for already failed crime-control measures, he used his time in the United States to call for proven methods to combat criminal acts, such as putting more cops on the street and more prosecutors in the court rooms.”.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation is the trade association for the firearms industry. Its mission is to promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports. Formed in 1961, NSSF has a membership of more than 5,500 manufacturers, distributors, firearms retailers, shooting ranges, sportsmen’s organizations and publishers. For more information, log on to www.nssf.org.