State prosecutors meeting at a conference Dec. 2 said the illegal flow of guns from the United States to Mexican drug cartels poses one of the biggest challenges in trying to reduce violence along America’s southern border.
Many guns used by drug cartels in gun-restrictive Mexico come from the United States. The guns are typically bought through straw buyers and smuggled across the border to be used against the Mexican government in its war against the cartels.
Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard said the United States can do a better job in stopping the flow of guns to Mexico, but noted those efforts have improved recently.
Even so, Goddard said the efforts, while substantial, represent only a small part of the cartel arsenals.
“It’s just the start,” Goddard said after a National Association of Attorneys General meeting in Phoenix. “Obviously there are a large number that are not being apprehended.”
U.S. authorities have helped trace guns recovered at crime scenes in Mexico and taught authorities there to restore weapons’ serial numbers that been scratched off. American border agents also are monitoring more traffic headed to Mexico.
Francisco Javier Molina Ruiz, a Mexican deputy attorney general who attended the gathering of American prosecutors, said that country’s approach to battling firearms trafficking is developed.
“The mix between the arms trafficking and drug trafficking is a phenomenon that has been recognized recently,” he said. “About six or seven years ago, there was no connection between one or the other. These days, one of the strong tools that organized crime has is weapons.”
Over those years, more than 28,000 weapons were confiscated in Mexico, he said.
U.S. prosecutors lauded their efforts at increasing cooperation between authorities in the two neighboring countries.
New Mexico Attorney General Gary King said his office has been working with prosecutors in the Mexican state of Chihuahua to share information on where in Mexico that guns sold in the United States are ending up.