House Dems press border states to curb gun trafficking to Mexico

A group of 18 Democrats have signed a letter asking the governors of states along the international border with Mexico to help stop illegal guns moving south.

Spearheaded by U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., the letter presses the governors of Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas to do what they can to help prevent firearms making their way to bad actors south of the border.

“The devastating impacts of guns falling into the wrong hands transcend our borders and the increased availability of U.S. guns has fueled transnational criminal organizations operating in countries with track records of extreme violence, such as Mexico,” says the letter.

The letter references data from California-based gun control groups, Mexico’s crime rates, and a 2016 GAO report that found two-thirds of the guns given by Mexican authorities to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to trace in recent years originated in the U.S. before suggesting that border states should “institute greater controls” to reduce southbound guns and ammo.

“It is no coincidence that three of these Border States, Arizona, Texas, and New Mexico have gun show loopholes that do not require background checks,” said Grijalva in a statement from his office.

Action from the states challenged over their gun show laws, all helmed by Republican governors with track records of signing pro-Second Amendment legislation, is not likely. California already requires checks for firearms sold at gun shows.

The letter was co-signed by Rep. Norma Torres, D-Calf., author of a bill introduced in March which would trigger a 20-year prison sentence for those transporting two or more firearms across the U.S-Mexico border without documentation. The bill also requires licensed gun dealers in border areas to report multiple sales of any firearm.

On the other side of the line, officals in Mexico blame guns from the north for their problems with crime fueled by powerful drug gangs.

In the Mexican border town of Tijuana, Police Chief Marco Antonio Sotomayo, told KPBS his agency has seized about 350 firearms so far this year, mostly originating from the U.S.

“I urge the U.S. to help us by better controlling gun sales and stopping these guns from illegally crossing the border,” Sotomayo said. “Because at the end of the day, that’s what’s provoking the violence we have in this city.”

Mexico’s Foreign Minister Claudia Ruiz Massieu, in a speech last year, blamed the demise of the U.S. federal assault weapon ban in 2004 in large part for her country’s gun violence problems, saying the availability of formerly banned firearms in the states “gives transnational criminal organizations enormous firepower” that has an effect on both sides of the border.