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"U.S. Guns Behind Cartel Killings in Mexico"

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That was the headline, two days before Halloween, when the Washington Post turned over an ugly rock too long ignored by our elected officials.

Now, a whole host of terrifying facts about gun shows in America have crawled out. In a nutshell, this report says that Mexican gangsters are at war, and they're shooting each other with guns bought in unregulated sales at American gun shows. To do it, the gangsters exploit what is known as the gun show loophole. They find so-called "private sellers" at gun shows, who can sell whole arsenals of weapons without ever running a background check.

Here are a few of the most powerful quotes from the article:

  • "...unlicensed sellers can sell 'personal collections' at weekend gun shows without background checks."
  • "...unscrupulous sellers and buyers have taken advantage of the system ... setting up phony personal collections booths and making quick sales that are difficult to trace."
  • "Arizona and Texas have become a 'gunrunner's paradise'...."
  • "...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."
  • "Among the new weapons of choice for Mexican drug dealers are so-called variants of AK-47s and AR-15 assault rifles...."
  • "An AK-47 that sells for $200 to $800 at an Arizona gun show can be sold for four times that much in Mexico...."
  • "'You're looking at the same firepower here on the border that our soldiers are facing in Iraq and Afghanistan'...."
  • "...law enforcement officers on both sides of the border have never seen anything like the flood of guns now surging into Mexico."

Drugs from Mexico come in, and American guns go out.

What's Washington's answer? The report says that President Bush has "proposed [a] $500 million U.S. aid package to help Mexico battle [drug] cartels." That's right: according to the article, we could be sending the Mexican government half a billion dollars to fight Mexican drug gangs armed with guns bought right here in America. But that's plainly slamming the door shut after the horse has left the barn.

Remember: unregulated gun show sales are how Eric Harris and Dylan Kleybold got their guns before they murdered 12 and wounded 22 others at Columbine High School. It's how Michael Fortier - an accomplice of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh - sold many of the guns they stole from an Arkansas gun collector. It's how Ali Boumelhem - a member of the terrorist group Hezbollah - bought an arsenal of shotguns, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, flash suppressors and assault weapons parts for export to Lebanon. And it's how Muhammad Navid Asrar - who may also have had a link to al-Qaeda - bought an arsenal of his own, "including a Sten submachine gun, a Ruger Mini-14 rifle, two pistols and a hunting rifle."

These are just some of the highest-profile examples, but it doesn't have to be this way. We should never have to read about another school shooting fueled by an unregulated gun show sale. We should never have to read about another accused terrorist arming himself at a gun show. We should never have to read about how gun shows in America arm the drug gangs in Mexico.

Enough already.

The Washington Post article should spur our elected officials to answer a few basic questions:

  • Why do the President and Congress permit gun shows in America to arm Mexican drug gangs?
  • How can the gun lobby defend these disgraceful business practices as they continue their efforts to keep the gun show loophole open?
  • What will it take for the President and Congress to stare down the gun pushers and close the gun show loophole, once-and-for-all?

Now is the time to act: Require a background check for every single gun sale in America. We make it too easy for dangerous people to get dangerous weapons.

No background check? No sale. NO EXCEPTIONS.

(Note to readers: This entry, along with past entries, has been co-posted on bradycampaign.org/blog and the Huffington Post.)

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