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Arsenals for the Juarez Cartel

By See-Dubya  •  April 5, 2008 07:23 PM

{Guest post by See-Dubya}

This week the ATF arrested a fellow named Victor Varela at a border crossing in New Mexico. CNN articles are here and here. They claim he’s a gunrunner who’s fueling some of Mexico’s worst drug violence, and they say he was trying to procure a full-auto M60 machine gun for use the cartels’ war on public order. He allegedly used (illegal) straw-man purchases to assemble his shipments–which may have included especially powerful .50 BMG Barrett-style sniper rifles. A .50 BMG sniper rifle was used to kill a Juarez police commissioner in Juarez.

As is usually the case for MSM reporting on gun crime, CNN’s video, here, pings my BS meter at a couple of points. They show you, at four minutes in, an ATF officer taking out some Romanian-made “AK-47 type knockoff” rifles, thirty of which have been intercepted. Note the thumbhole stock; it’s likely a semi-automatic version made for the American market. But CNN then cuts to video of an agent firing a full-auto AK-47, with a visibly different military-pattern stock and pistol grip. And the announcer claims that these rifles–still talking about the intercepted Romanian rifles–were fully automatic.

For reasons detailed here, I don’t buy that at all. Full auto AK-47s are rare, highly regulated, and expensive in the United States, and require a Class III licensed dealer who gets regular colonoscopies from the ATF. You can’t just walk into a gun show and walk out with a full-auto AK. I can’t see getting together thirty of them for a shipment south, especially since there are plenty of alternative sources for old AK’s in Latin America. Mexico intercepted a shipment of “hundreds” of AK-47s from Venezuela in 2005, for example. I think CNN has either deliberately–out of anti-gun bias or sensationalism–or out of ignorance given us a distorted view of that aspect of the problem.

Actually, there’s more crapola in that CNN video. They’ve intercepted four Barrett rifles in Mexico, and now they say it’s become the “gun of choice in a war erupting just south of our border”. Four. As for the 5.7mm FN pistols being called “matapolicias”, a colorful nickname does necessarily indicate an effective weapon, and it certainly wasn’t designed to kill cops as the reporter claims. The ATF guy says it’s in high demand precisely because of the colorful nickname.

I’m not disputing, of course, that gunrunning is a problem we need to do something about, and I don’t have a lot of good ideas on how to do it. Recently, AG Mukasey announced that there would be more cooperation between Mexican and U.S. personnel to track down gun suppliers in the U.S. Mukasey also called for a tightening up of US enforcement on gun dealers who don’t do their due diligence, which is a measure I can get behind. Ultimately, the system worked in identifying Varela’s network and catching him. But it worked awfully slowly, and there are probably dozens of crooks ready to take his place.

However, will it do very much good? Even if we tighten up our own system, there is always the possibility of a wannabe Viktor Bout from another nation meeting the cartels’ demand.

Oh, one more armchair rifleman note: Here’s a quote from one of the Mexican policemen charged with trying to keep a lid on this mess:

Officer Cesar Quitana patrols a dangerous barrio in Juarez, Mexico. He is armed with an M16 assault rifle — a weapon that would be no match in a gunfight with drug lords.

“I think most of us feel scared just to bring this with us,” he says, pointing to the rifle in the front seat of his patrol car. “But this is what we use to defend ourselves.”

I’ve got a lot of respect for what Mr. Quitana does, but I have to ask what sort of weapon he does want? The selective-fire M16 is, as much of the MM.com readership knows better than I do, a flawed weapon—but it has been the rifle of the United States military for years. If it’s good enough for our troops patrolling in Iraq, why wouldn’t it work for patrolling in Juarez?

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Categories: Guns