Friday, July 1, 2011

U.S. lawmakers seek to penalize gun trafficking to Mexico

Rep. Elijah Cummings on Thursday urged Congress to criminalize firearms trafficking to Mexico and to more strictly regulate the gun trade inside the United States.

During a forum on Capitol Hill, the Maryland Democrat circulated a 26-page report asking for the entry into force of a federal statute designed specifically to criminalize the trafficking of firearms to Mexico.

Rep. Carolyn Mahoney (D-N.Y.) said she and Cummings plan to put forward such a bill.

Cummings said that deficiencies in federal laws prevent efficaciously combating the illicit flow of weapons to the Mexican drug cartels.

The report recommends, among other things, greater sanctions for people who serve as intermediaries for the drug traffickers in buying weapons.

It also asks for the strengthening of requirements for registering multiple purchases of guns such as AK-47 assault rifles, the cartels' weapon of choice.

Under the current federal law, weapons dealers must only report the multiple purchases of handguns, but not rifles.
During the forum, Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign and the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, complained that up to now the requests of his group to strengthen the control of weapons in the United States "have fallen on deaf ears."

He said that six months after the shooting in Tucson, Arizona, that left six people dead and 13 others - including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords - wounded, more than 47,000 Americans have become the victims of violence with firearms, and at least 32 people are murdered in this country each day with guns.

Thursday's event arose from a probe by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee of "Operation Fast and Furious," a controversial initiative of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Under the program, which came to light earlier this year, the ATF allowed guns to be bought and taken to Mexico in a bid to establish links between straw purchasers in the United States and Mexican drug kingpins.

Two assault rifles linked to Fast and Furious were found at the scene of last December's murder of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry just north of the U.S.-Mexico border.

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