Just last week, 80 Members of Congress joined with Representatives Eliot Engel (D-NY) and John Conyers (D-MI) to call on the Obama Administration to resume enforcement of a 1968 law that bans imports of non-sporting assault weapons. This law was enforced by Bush I and strengthened under the Clinton Administration, but was silently discontinued by Bush II. There’s no need for Congress’s approval; President Obama has the power to restore this ban, an important tool to reduce violence in communities on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, today.
Arms trafficking across the U.S. southern border has helped fuel an unprecedented wave of violence in Mexico: there have been over 70,000 organized crime related deaths since 2006. Imported military-style assault weapons have increasingly been found in the arsenals of organized crime kingpins. They have been used in mass shootings of civilian and officials alike, including the May 2008 murders of eight police officers in Culiacan, Mexico. Weapons used in a 2007 massacre of police officers in Acapulco were traced back to a gun shop in Houston that had been repeatedly linked to gun trafficking. ATF statistics show that 68% of the nearly 100,000 guns found at crime scenes in Mexico were traced back to U.S. manufacturers and dealers.
Organized crime groups in Mexico often use “straw purchasers” to obtain their weapons from the U.S. marketplace. U.S. citizens without criminal records may be bribed or threatened to buy guns legally in the United States and turn them over to traffickers. Legally purchasing a firearm in Mexico is difficult due to some of the strictest gun restrictions in the world; however lax gun control laws in the United States make it easier and cheaper for Mexican organized crime to acquire high-powered firearms in states like Texas and Arizona. A 2013 study from the University of San Diego estimates that 46.7% of U.S. firearms dealers are dependent on Mexican demand, and that the volume of firearms flowing across the U.S.-Mexico border is growing and significantly higher than previously assumed.
LAWG applauds Representatives Engel and Conyers and 80 fellow members of Congress for showing leadership in this vital effort to stem the flow of high-powered military firearms from the U.S. into the hands of criminal organizations in Mexico and put an end to tens of thousands of needless deaths on both sides of the border. We join them in calling on President Obama to renew enforcement of the 1968 assault weapons import ban today.
Read the complete letter to President Obama here.