If yesterdays story about the border patrol wasnt enough to piss you off how about this. U.S. guns pour into Mexico Arms race among drug cartels, end of ban in America result in flood of high-power weapons over border Chris Hawley and Sergio Solache Republic Mexico City Bureau Jan. 16, 2007 12:00 AM MEXICO CITY - The Mexican village of Zazalpa got a chilling lesson in American-made firepower recently. Homes, cars, everything was destroyed. Even the cows were shot. About 60 Mexican drug smugglers rolled into Zazalpa, 300 miles southeast of Douglas, looking for a rival trafficker in November. They rounded up residents, then raked the empty village with American-made AR-15 rifles. The destruction of Zazalpa is just one of dozens of unrelated drug skirmishes in Mexico with a common element: American guns. advertisement Combat-style rifles are pouring into Mexico, aided by the end of the U.S. Assault Weapons Ban in 2004 and an arms race among several Mexican cartels battling for control of lucrative drug routes. The weapons are purchased at stores and gun shows, then smuggled into Mexico under car seats or tucked into suitcases. "There is a direct relationship between the flow of these weapons and the explosion of violence," said José Luis Santiago Vasconcelos, Mexico's deputy attorney general for organized crime. The surge in guns comes as new President Felipe Calderón is cracking down on drug-related violence along the border and in interior states notorious for illicit trade. To help stem the flow of weapons, authorities in Mexico and the United States have formed police task forces, installed X-ray scanners on the Mexican side of border crossings and launched gun buy-back programs in Mexican border cities. But seizures across Mexico show guns are still getting in. The number of weapons confiscated by Mexican authorities has been rising almost uninterrupted since 2002 and reached 10,579 in 2005. The 2006 catch looks to be even bigger, with more than 8,200 guns seized as of June. Ninety percent of those weapons come from the United States, Mexico says. Guns for sale At a gun show in Tucson, Tom Myers of Phoenix hefted a jet-black AR-15 with all the extras: short barrel, telescoping stock, 30-round magazine and a menacing-looking flare launcher. "I can sell this to you for 9½ ($950)," he said. "And there's no paperwork at all." Because Myers is a private seller, he is not required to do a background check on the buyer or keep any records. The gun he was selling was a semiautomatic, meaning each pull of the trigger fires one round. When asked if he had any of the deadlier automatics, he led a reporter to a nearby table. There, James Ramey of Little Rock, Ark., was selling Hellfire and Autoburst trigger activation devices, $30 gadgets that turn any assault rifle into a rat-a-tatting machine gun. Ramey works about 50 gun shows a year. He explained how the Mexican gangs buy their weapons at weekend shows in border cities. "They send over a scout on Saturday to see if there's anything they want," he said. "Then they show up on Sunday with a big wad of money and somebody who's got a clean record, who's legal to buy." Authorities say the flow of combat-style weapons increased after the U.S. 1994 Assault Weapons Ban expired in September 2004. That measure had barred sales of 19 types of semiautomatic weapons, including the AR-15, AK-47 copies and the TEC-9 pistol. "Now, there are more weapons available out there to the general public, and in turn those weapons find themselves in the wrong hands," said Sigberto Celaya, resident agent in charge for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Tucson. The assault rifle of choice is the AR-15, a variant of the U.S. Army's famous M-16. The AK-47, a Russian design now made by several U.S. manufacturers, runs second. "They lifted that (federal Assault Weapons Ban), and now these weapons are being sold like candy," Santiago Vasconcelos said. Only New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and some cities still ban such weapons. Rising demand As the supply of assault-style weapons has increased, so has demand. Until the mid-1990s, disputes among drug smugglers were mainly fought with handguns. But as U.S.-funded crackdowns in South America have weakened the Colombian cartels, the role and power of Mexican smugglers has risen. The arrests of several Mexican drug lords have ignited turf battles in Nuevo Laredo, Acapulco and other cities. With the stakes ever higher, the Mexican gangs have turned to assault rifles, grenade launchers and even anti-tank rockets. I suppose they sell these at Az gun shows too? Mexican police now regularly turn up arsenals worthy of the U.S. Marines. One stash found in November in Guerrero state included 11 AR-15s, two AK-47s, ammunition, magazines, hand grenades, bulletproof vests, fatigues and combat boots. From July 2005 to February 2006, the U.S. Border Enforcement Security Task Force in Laredo, Texas, seized 36 assault rifles bound for Mexico, along with several kits to modify them for automatic fire. In Arizona, a newly formed BEST team has seized 28 assault weapons since March. "On every case, every individual we have arrested has been fully armed with high-powered weapons," said Louie Garcia, assistant special agent in charge with Arizona's BEST team. Different laws The drug smugglers get their guns from the United States because Mexico's own gun laws are much stricter, at least in theory. Mexicans are allowed to keep one small-caliber weapon in their homes for self-defense but cannot move it to another place. All gun buyers must have a permit from the Mexican Defense Department. Applicants have to pass a psychological exam and a background check, then submit financial documents to prove they are upstanding citizens. Nationwide, in a country of 110 million people, there are only 4,323 weapons legally held by citizens, the Mexican government says. In the United States, buying guns is easier. At gun stores in Arizona, customers only have to fill out a form and pass a criminal background check conducted by telephone through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. The check takes less than 10 minutes. Drug smugglers get around that rule by paying "straw purchasers" with clean records to make the buys. In a recent Arizona case, straw purchasers were paid $300 for each AK-47 they bought. Buying at gun shows is even easier. At these events, unlicensed "collectors" such as Myers are allowed to sell weapons with no documentation at all. Makers downplay role U.S. gunmakers say they are not responsible for the violence, stressing they sell only to licensed U.S. retailers. "But not unlike any other product, there's not really a way to know exactly what the consumer does with it once they have it," said Larry Keane, senior vice president and general counsel for the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers Institute, the U.S. firearms industry's main trade group. Gunmakers also note that in the United States, the crime rate has dropped in recent years despite an increase in the number of guns in civilian hands. It's unclear how many of Mexico's weapons come from Arizona, but the state is a major producer of firearms. In 2004, 11 companies in Arizona produced more than 100,000 weapons, according to the most recent report from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Sturm, Ruger & Co. Inc. makes pistols at a factory in Prescott, Bushmaster Firearms manufactures AR-15 parts in Lake Havasu City, and Red Rock Arms of Mesa makes a variety of combat-style sporting rifles. Stopping smuggling Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the U.S. government has become increasingly concerned about Mexico's ability to protect its own border. U.S. authorities have given Mexico 16 X-ray machines and two ion scanners to help detect drugs and weapons at border crossing points. The U.S. government has also launched the Border Enforcement and Security Task Forces, teams made up of federal, state and local law enforcement agents. Arizona's BEST team started work in March. Mexico, meanwhile, has launched a series of megaraids in Michoacan and the Baja California states aimed at flooding high-crime areas with federal agents and the military. It has also started buy-back programs, in which people can trade in weapons for groceries. But gun-control experts say government secrecy on the Mexican side, combined with industry pressure in the United States, make it hard to crack down on smugglers. "We need to open the private arms market to inspection and create a detailed registry to know how many people have a pistol and how they got it," said Arturo Arango, an investigator with the Citizens' Institute for Studies on Insecurity in Mexico. Gun-control advocates also complain that high-ranking U.S. officials refuse to blame the United States for the flow of guns to Mexico. "I don't know where the weapons come from," Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told Congress in February. "Wherever the weapons come from, they're dangerous." Mexican officials call that a cop-out. Reimposing the U.S. Assault Weapons Ban would go a long way toward stemming violence long the border, Santiago Vasconcelos said. "These weapons come from your country, we know that for a fact," he told The Republic. Cliffs: Mexican drug dealer are shooting each other up. The mexican gov blames the US gun laws, and wants us to reimpost the AWB.