I want to resuscitate today a couple of posts in this blog dating back to 2007 and 2010 because they remind us that we have a lot more to deal with than the NRA membership when we're talking about the gun problem. It's not an American problem alone. It's an international problem and it's about money -- as these things usually are.
Today as in the past, the movement of Mexican immigrants across the border is a trickle compared to the flow of guns and drugs. Guns and drugs are an industrial problem, an economic problem. HSBC (in the news over the past several days) is not the only prominent bank that's participated -- maybe in some cases unwittingly -- in profitable money laundering for drug cartels and arms merchants.
Banks don't want to let go of that income anymore than do the gun runners and the government agents on both sides of the border who make some bucks off the trade, too.
Here's a 2007 post in this blog about the problems we face:
There's a strip of "no-man's land" in the northernmost part of Mexico and on the US side along the Mexican border. You can feel the tension -- the risk -- when you're in certain parts of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, and you can practically taste it in the remote , dry parts of the northern Mexican states. If you're driving (I've done this) along narrow dirt tracks south of Big Bend, you may well be stopped by the federales. Ostensibly they're just checking you out. Most people think they're checking for drug shipments (and sometimes they are). Most Americans don't seem to realize they're checking for armas -- US weapons being smuggled by Americans (and Mexicans) into Mexico for sale.
This is the first time I've seen a story about this in a national paper. We tend to think all the bad stuff comes from Mexico to the US, not that we're sending bad stuff down there.
100 percent of drug-related killings are committed with smuggled U.S. weapons.
The guns pass into Mexico through the "ant trail," the nickname for the steady stream of people who each slip two or three weapons across the border every day. The "ants" -- along with larger smuggling operations -- are feeding a rapidly expanding arms race between Mexican drug cartels.
The U.S. weapons -- as many as 2,000 enter Mexico each day, according to a Mexican government study -- are crucial tools in an astoundingly barbaric war between rival cartels that has cost 4,000 lives in the past 18 months and sent law enforcement agencies in Washington and Mexico City into crisis mode. ...
The arms traffickers have left Mexico awash in AK-47s, pistols, telescope sighting devices, grenades, grenade launchers and high-powered ammunition, such as the so-called cop-killer bullets believed to be able to penetrate bulletproof vests.
"You're looking at the same firepower here on the border that our soldiers are facing in Iraq and Afghanistan," Thomas Mangan, a spokesman in Phoenix for the ATF, said in an interview.
Weapons have been smuggled into Mexico for decades.
And again in 2010:
Many Americans don't know -- and many more don't want to know -- the extent to which Americans violate Mexican borders. We focus on "illegal immigrants" coming in from the south; we pay little or no attention to our own illegal intrusions into northern Mexico.
Republicans will have the next two years to set the immigration agenda in the House of Representatives. If their legislation looks anything like their campaign ads, there will be no way for illegal immigrants to get right with the law and no real solution to the problem of illegal immigration. Just a national doubling-down on enforcement, with still more border fencing and immigration agents, workplaces locked down, and states and localities setting police dragnets on what always was — and still ought to be — federal turf.
That hard-line approach mocks American values. It is irresponsibly expensive. It is ineffective. ...NYT editorial
... And does nothing to address the harm we do, on a daily basis, to Mexico's battle against the drug cartels which are, in turn, doing much to destroy that country and its economy with a good deal of help from the US arms industry, US banks, and US drug distributors.
Illegal arms trade been going on for years without much attention from Americans, much less action from appropriate agencies. Too much money on this side of the border supports illegal trade in arms as well as drug distribution.
NPR: You know, many Mexican citizens and officials are pointing a finger at the U.S. as the source of arms for these conflicts. Do you think that's an accurate accusation?
[Reporter John] BURNETT: Mexico has been screaming about the flow of weapons from the U.S. to the drug cartels for about five years now. And they claim correctly that the Mexican organized crime is armed by arms sellers, largely from the United States, largely from the border states. And, in fact, Houston is sort of a number one gun market for the cartels. And so they've been clamoring for the U.S. to do something about this, to cut down on this flow of illegal weapons going south.
NPR: It may be coincidence, but there was a review last week of the U.S. program to stop the movement of guns across the border. What was in that report?
BURNETT: It was a very tough review of what's called Project Gunrunner. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has been, in the last five years, trying to choke this flow of weapons from the border states into Mexico. And it's called Project Gunrunner, and the inspector general of the Justice Department took a hard look at it and was very critical. And he said we found significant weaknesses in ATF's implementation of Project Gunrunner.
He said ATF agents don't systematically exchange intelligence with either their U.S. partner agencies, like the DEA and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. And they don't share intel with their Mexican counterparts.
But to be fair, they also flawed the very permissive gun laws in the U.S., the lack of reporting requirement for multiple sales of rifles. So that anybody can go into a gun store in the U.S. and buy a number of rifles, and there's no reporting requirements and there's no way to trace those. And long rifles are the weapons of choice by the cartels.
NPR: Any chance this report will make any difference?
BURNETT: Well, the ATF has responded and said they are going to try to improve the failings of this program. So we'll see.
Editorial and reports turn up on NPR and in the Times and in other media in the US periodically. But we are blinded by our view that the "real" border problem is about Mexican workers coming north. Of course, it's far from the whole or the "real" problem.
The real problem is the huge and destructive illegal trade which is ruining lives on both sides of the border thanks to deep government corruption in both nations, whether we're talking about agencies like the DEA and the ATF in the US, or about the regional police and federal agencies in Mexico.
Neither country comes out of this with clean hands. The US has the edge, though, when it comes to willful ignorance and hypocrisy.