Gun Trafficking and the Southwest Border
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS WASHINGTON DC CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE
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According to the Department of Justice, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives ATF is the lead federal agency responsible for stopping the illegal flow of firearms, or gun trafficking, from the United States to Mexico. ATF has developed a nationwide strategy to reduce firearms trafficking and violent crime by seeking to prevent convicted felons, drug traffickers, and juvenile gang members from acquiring firearms from gun traffickers. These criminals often acquire firearms from persons who are otherwise not prohibited from possessing firearms, or by buying firearms from corrupt federal firearms licensees FFLs who sell firearms off-the-books in an attempt to escape federal regulation. ATF also reports that Mexican drug trafficking organizations DTOs are increasingly sending enforcers across the border to hire surrogates straw purchasers who buy several military-style firearms at a time from FFLs. The DTOs also reportedly favor pistols chambered to accommodate comparatively large cartridges that are capable of piercing through armor vests usually worn by law enforcement officers, and magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition. Less frequently, but no less troubling to law enforcement, the DTOs have also sought .50 caliber sniper rifles that are capable of penetrating bullet-proof glass and lightly armored vehicles. ATF reports that there are around 6,700 FFLs in the United States operating in the Southwest border region of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. By inspecting the firearms transfer records that FFLs are required by law to maintain, ATF investigators are often able to trace crime guns from their domestic manufacturer or importer to the first retail dealer that sold those firearms to persons in the general public, generating vital leads in criminal investigations.
- Sociology and Law