Second Amendment in crossfire in border battle over guns, drugs
May 15, 2009
by Joseph P. Tartaro
The original “assault weapon” ban enacted in 1994 during the Clinton Administration was a hoax. Efforts to enact a new and more restrictive ban on sport utility firearms for any reason, including the drug and money-fueled violence in Mexico and the US, is also a hoax.
A renewal of the ban on semi-automatic rifles, shotgun and pistols, as well as full-capacity magazines, has been a primary objective of the anti-gun lobby in the United States since Barack Obama was elected president of the United States. The body count in Mexico caused by the violent struggle over drug turf and money is just being used as the latest catalyst for re-enactment of a gun ban.
Claims by Mexican and US politicians, lobbyists and so many in the media that a reenactment of the ban would reduce the flow of semi-automatic firearms to the armies of the Mexican drug lords just don’t hold water.
First of all, if highly restrictive gun laws and virtual bans on civilian access to and possession of guns really worked, there wouldn’t be a problem of armed drug cartel soldiers in Mexico. But such laws don’t work because they affect only the law-abiding.
Second, the drug business provides enough money so the “narco-trafficantes” can get anything they want from any source, not just gun shops in the US. And what they want mostfull autos, grenades, grenade launchers and other military small armsthey can’t buy in US shops.
Here’s one example: On Apr. 14, Associated Press reported from Mexico City that authorities there had arrested a woman guarding an arsenal that included the first anti-aircraft machinegun seized in Mexico, when the Mexican army announced the capture of an alleged top drug cartel lieutenant.
The arsenal belonged to a group linked to the powerful Beltran-Leyva drug cartel, federal police coordinator Gen. Rodolfo Cruz said. It also included ammunition, five rifles, a grenade and part of a grenade launcher.
The US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has traced many guns seized at scenes of drug violence in Mexico to US commercial sources, but no one seems to know exactly how many. Associated Press acknowledged that determining the source of military-grade weapons such as grenades and machineguns is more complicated. The ATF says the grenades are mostly smuggled in through Central America, and have been traced back to the militaries of many countries, from South Korea to Spain and Israel. Some may be leftovers from the Central American civil wars.
Two days after the machinegun find in Mexico City, Presidents Barack Obama and Felipe Calderon of Mexico concluded a historic meeting covering the drug wars as well as cross-border commerce, immigration and global warming with a press conference.
Obama indicated that while he favors reinstating the US ban on “assault weapons,” the move would face too much political opposition to happen soon. He said better enforcement of existing laws to prevent arms smuggling would have a more immediate effect on keeping US weapons from Mexican cartels.
“I continue to believe that we can respect and honor the Second Amendment rights in our Constitution, the rights of sportsmen and hunters and homeowners who want to keep their families safe to lawfully bear arms, while dealing with assault weapons that, as we know, here in Mexico, are helping to fuel extraordinary violence,” he said in his news conference with Calderón. “Now, having said that, I think none of us are under the illusion that reinstating that ban would be easy.”
Calderón claimed drug violence has soared since the US “assault weapons” ban expired.
Obama did repeat the popular claim that more than 90% of the guns recovered in Mexico come from the United States. Calderón used the 90% figure as well, and said he supported the reinstitution of the “assault weapons” ban, but understood the political problems in getting Congressional approval at this time.
But aside from guns, Obama said the US is “ramping up the number of law enforcement personnel on our border.” He said that for the first time, the US is inspecting trains leaving the country, not just those entering it.
Then he promised to push the US Senate to ratify an inter-American treaty to curb small arms trafficking.
Obama’s announcement on the treatyformally known as the Inter-American Convention Against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives and Other Related Materialsmarks an additional step. The Clinton Administration signed the treaty, better known by its Spanish acronym CIFTA, adopted it in 1997.
The treaty requires countries to take steps to reduce the illegal manufacture and trade in guns, ammunition and explosives. It also calls for countries to adopt strict licensing requirements, mark firearms when they are made and imported to make them easier to trace, and establish a process for sharing information between national law enforcement agencies.
Denis McDonough, director for strategic communications at the National Security Council, said the convention is on a list of treaties that the Administration has submitted to Congress that it considers priorities.
However, ammunition reloaders are alarmed at a leading provision in CIFTA because it could outlaw reloading without a government license.
This could have a significant impact, not only on the millions of shooters who reload their own ammunition, but on the industry that has grown around reloading. Bullet makers, powder manufacturers, companies that build reloading presses and dies, and companies including CCI, Federal, Remington and Winchester, that produce primers, could all be affected, if the treaty is ratified by the USA Senate.
However, that prospect seems remote right now, according to Chris Hodgdon, whose company manufactures or markets much of the reloading propellant used by handloaders.
Meanwhile, the National Rifle Association refuted a claim printed in The Washington Post on Apr. 16 that “US gun-rights groups participated as observers in drafting the treaty.”
NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre and Chris Cox, head of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, said: “The NRA monitored the development of this treaty from its earliest days, but contrary to news reports today, the NRA did not ‘participate’ at the meeting where the treaty was approved.”
Perhaps most alarming to shooters who reload their own cartridges and shotshells, the treaty declares in its first section that the “manufacture or assembly of firearms, ammunition, explosives, and other related materials” is deemed illicit “without a license from a competent governmental authority.”
On Apr. 22, CNSNews.com reported that John Leech, the man who oversees US efforts to stop the flow of illegal drugs into the United States, said the government also plans to stop the flow of guns into Mexicowhile respecting the Second Amendment.
Leech, the acting director of the Office of Counternarcotics Enforcement for the Department of Homeland Security, testified before a Senate subcommittee on Apr. 21. Leech could not, however, answer the question posed by the subcommittee chairman, Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR), as to whether the guns getting to Mexico were obtained legally or illegally.
Asked about reports that 90% of guns confiscated in Mexico came from the United States, Leech said he is not sure if those reports are accurate.
Accurate or not, the anti-gunners will continue to use those figures to justify their agenda.
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