Brady Center: Mexican drug gangs exploit weak American gun laws

ak 47

Press release excerpt

The same weak gun laws that are enabling the supply of Mexican criminals are supplying criminals in the U.S. as well. Existing laws are so weak that even one of the most notorious dealer supplying the cartels, the owner of X-Caliber gun shop in Phoenix that allegedly supplied 700 guns to Mexican drug gangs, had all criminal charges brought against him dismissed recently.

From the report (PDF) emphasis added.

Mexico’s tough gun laws prevent criminals from obtaining guns, so they take advantage of our weak gun laws that provide them ready access to arsenals of weapons. Under federal law, and the law in Texas, Arizona, and most states, unlicensed sellers are allowed to sell guns without a background check, no questions asked. U.S. law does not limit the number of guns that can be sold at a time, so traffickers can buy in bulk. And since the federal assault weapons ban was allowed to expire, military-style weapons and high capacity ammunition magazines are readily available. A trafficker supplying Mexican drug lords can buy all the guns he wants from an “unlicensed seller” in Texas or Arizona, no questions asked. Even licensed dealers are allowed to sell crates full of military-style assault weapons or .50 caliber sniper rifles that can pierce armor plating and take down airplanes from a mile away.

There is no conceivable reason that unlicensed gun sellers should be allowed to sell guns with no background check. None. In California, if you sell more than 5 cars a year you must register as a car dealer and follow the various laws and regulations. And if you buy a car from a dealer you need to show serious ID. The same thing should certainly apply to gun sales nationwide.

Their solution

  • Require background checks for all gun sales.
  • End bulk handgun sales.
  • Stop corrupt gun dealers by removing restrictions on ATF enforcement.
  • Restrict military-style semiautomatic weapons.


  1. Let’s be clear about one thing first: the Brady Center has an axe to grind. Now let’s look at a few inconsistencies in their statement:

    1. The people they accuse of supplying guns to Mexico ARE NOT unlicensed dealers. They specifically cite the case of a licensed gun dealer in Phoenix.
    2. EVERY gun sale through a licensed dealer in the U.S. DOES require a background check through BATF. That’s a federal law.
    3. There is NO functional difference between a “military-style assault rifle” and any other semi-automatic rifle, except they look scarier. In fact, the SKS (which is considered a “Curio & Relic”) fires the same ammo at the same rate as the AK-47– and does so more reliably and more accurately, and it costs less. It would be unaffected by an assault weapons ban.
    4. Under the current law, anyone who is “in the business of” buying and selling guns must be federally licensed. The code doesn’t define what constitutes being in the business, which needs to be clarified. But only licensed gun dealers can sell to a person in another state.
    5. Press reports indicate that the guns used by the cartels are fully automatic weapons– machine guns. You CAN’T buy those over the counter in the U.S. and individuals CAN’T legally transfer them without BATF permission. BATF has a record of where every civilian-owned machine gun in the U.S. is located.

    I recognize that the Brady Center feels strongly about getting guns off the street. But a little fact checking will show that they’re innaccurate on this one.

    • The FBI, it appears, would agree quite a lot with the Brady Center

      Previously, approximately 148 special agents were dedicated to investigating firearms trafficking on a full-time basis and 59 IOIs were responsible for conducting regulatory inspections of federally licensed gun dealers, known as federal firearms licensees (FFLs) along the Southwest border.

      As the sole federal agency that regulates FFLs, ATF’s cadre of IOIs work to identify and prioritize for inspection those FFLs with a history of noncompliance that represent a risk to public safety; who sell the weapons most commonly used by drug trafficking organizations in the region; and have numerous unsuccessful traces and a large volume of firearms recoveries in high-crime areas

      Clearly, they believe the laws are been abused or ignored.

  2. Actually, FBI seems to suggest that EXISTING laws aren’t being enforced. BradyCenter, on the other hand, suggests that MORE laws are needed. Big difference.

    I have no problem with enforcement of what’s already on the books. I disagree that more laws are needed. And if we can’t enforce the laws we’ve got, what good would more laws do anyway?

  3. “There is no conceivable reason that unlicensed gun sellers should be allowed to sell guns with no background check. None.”

    You mean I shouldn’t be able to sell a lawfully-owned gun to my friend? Private party transcations, as long as they don’t cross state lines, are legal under federal law. And in Utah, people buy and sell to each other all the time. Check out the local free paper, there’s always at least a dozen ads for private party gun sales. And once again I’ll refer to Utah’s lower-than-average murder rate.

    I’d agree that there ought to be a limit to the number of guns a person can sell without being cinsidered a dealer. But OTOH, what about a person who liquidates his/her collection in a one-time series of sales? One of my friends did exactly that last year to pay for surgery. He knew every buyer personally.

    I think people are looking for scapegoats because they don’t want to face the possibility that we’re a society of people that cares increasingly little for each other, especially those who may not look or think like us. You can ban private party sales, you can ban guns altogether, but that won’t solve the problem.

    • In California, if you sell more than five cars a year, you must register as a dealer. And anyone buying a car from a Calif. dealer gets a DHS check. The same should be true for guns.

      We’re not talking about responsible private owners and how honorable they may or may not be. The problem is thousands of guns crossing the border due to illegal sales by criminals to criminals probably also due to massive corruption on both sides.

  4. The sad truth is, without effective enforcement (which we clearly already lack), more laws just penalize law-abiding gun owners. There’s no reason to believe that those who break the existing laws will abide by any new laws either.

    But we’d do well to ask ourselves some deeper questions. Why are guns crossing the border? Supply and demand. They’re in demand in Mexico, where they’re not available. Do we seriously believe that if we shut of the flow of U.S. guns, one or more cartels won’t hire a freighter full of cheap AK’s from Africa? Supply-side control doesn’t work. Just look at the DEA.

    But the more serious question is: Why are guns in demand in Mexico? They’re fighting over drug money, a situation caused by the U.S. prohibition on drugs which jacks the price up thousands of times, making smuggling extremely profitable. If we want to pull the plug on border violence, we need to eliminate the prize over which they fight. And that’s OUR issue, not Mexico’s.

      • Contrarily, you will do anything to stop gun violence, except seek a solution that will work?

        Seriously, though, we need to ask ourselves several questions:

        (1) WILL more laws stop gun violence? The evidence suggests that there is no correlation between regulation and lower levels of gun violence. Which is to say that neither more laws nor (as gun rights extremists argue) fewer laws will make a significant change in the level of violence.

        (2) Should we pass laws that have little hope of being effective? Some would say yes, but a wise man who lived 2,500 years ago said, “Pass no law that does not need to be passed.” There should be a compelling reason for laws to be passed– including a reasonable expectation that they will make a difference.

        (3) Would more gun laws be worth the price? To answer this question, we must know what the price is, and on that we are unlikely to agree. The theory of our founding fathers was that the civilian population must be armed in order to prevent the government from infringing on its rights– only equal strength prevents an unequal relationship. So, based on the premise of American democracy, the price of more gun laws is loss of not just the loss of our right to bear arms, but all our other rights as well. There are examples in Europe of citizens and government working hand in hand, and they occur both with guns (Switzerland, Finland) and without (France, Denmark). But our American relationship with government never has been and is unlikely to become anything other than adversarial.

        (4) If gun laws won’t stop violence, what will? Ironically, we seem to agree that the immediate cause of this violence is too many laws, namely the prohibition of certain drugs in the American market. That’s not the sole answer here, as violence is a complex phenomenon. The breakdown of the fabric of our society, national selfishness, an outrageous sense of entitlement, despair, disempowerment, and existential disappointment all play their part.

        “Ban guns” is a slogan more easily chanted than “Legalize drugs, empower the people, and care about your neighbor.” But if we really want to make a difference we need to look a little deeper.

  5. Oh stop it you guys.

    The real problem isn’t guns. The real problem is men.

    Male criminals – worldwide – outnumber female criminals by at least 4 to 1, and if you are counting only violent crimes (such as murder by gun) I believe the worldwide statistic is more like 99 to 1 (or so.)

    So forget about outlawing guns. Just outlaw men. Problem solved.

      • It’s true: statistically, women prefer poison.

        However, out our way women are as likely as men to enjoy going down to the range. One friend’s wife loves shooting the AK, another hunts deer with a bow. My own wife doesn’t enjoy shooting so much, but she’s pretty good with the 30-30.

        But again, we don’t have as many murders to begin with. Maybe because women are armed?

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