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ATF boosts gun investigators in Southwest

PHOENIX, Sept. 18 (UPI) -- Federal authorities say there will be more operations aimed at gun smuggling into Mexico like the one this week in Arizona that resulted in 66 arrests.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives says more than $37 million has been appropriated to fund permanent investigative teams in southwestern U.S. cities believed to be sources for black market weapons bought by Mexican drug gangs.

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"This is not the end of it," ATF Deputy Director Kenneth Melson said in Phoenix after a three-month undercover operation by more than 80 agents in Arizona and New Mexico netted multiple arrests and seizure of 1,300 guns.

The Arizona Republic said Saturday the ATF Gun Runner Impact Team in Arizona would be duplicated in 10 other U.S. cities, including Las Vegas, Atlanta, Dallas and Brownsville, Texas.

The Arizona operation announced Friday involved matching the serial numbers of weapons found at Mexican crime scenes and tracing them to licensed gun dealers in the state. The dealers' records led investigators to the alleged straw buyers who filled out the paperwork.

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