Mexican cartels buy guns from U.S. dealers

April 15, 2009 at 7:32 AM
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WASHINGTON, April 15 (UPI) -- Smugglers supplying guns to Mexican drug cartels can evade detection for years because arms dealers are lightly regulated in U.S. border states, officials say.

As the U.S. Department of Homeland Security appoints a "border czar" to protect the United States from escalating drug cartel violence, U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents are struggling to keep up with the flow of weapons to Mexico from states such as Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

Gun dealers in those states can sell an unlimited number of rifles to anyone with a driver's license and a clean criminal record without reporting the sales to the government, the newspaper said.

Mexican authorities say that about 90 percent of the 12,000 pistols and rifles they recovered from drug dealers last year came from dealers in the United States, most of them in Texas and Arizona, with officials saying the cartels have been stocking up on U.S.-bought military assault rifles.

Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president and chief executive of the National Rifle Association, told the Times that tightening U.S. gun laws won't solve Mexico's problems and only penalize legitimate gun buyers.

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