Thursday, February 26, 2009

Guns, Pot And National Security-- In The U.S. And Mexico


Time to legalize pot and outlaw heavy weapons

I don't know anyone else who ever went to Afghanistan to kick drugs. But after a few months there in the late 60s I was ready. One day I woke up in Jalalabad, in the back of the VW van that was my home for 3 years, and said shúker and Da khoday-pe-aman to a country I had grown to love and to a drug lifestyle that had defined the last 5 years of my life... and headed for the Khyber Pass. I was off to India. But first stop after the historic Pass was Peshawar, charming city, kind of a wild west town with far more horses and buggies-- horses with red plumes on their heads-- than cars. I had always thought it remarkable that every single man in Afghanistan-- and remember, this was in 1969, before the Taliban and before the Russian invasion, before the disintegration of Afghan society-- carried a gun, usually a big one. In Peshawar I saw where they came from. It was the biggest gun market I had ever seen in my life-- the whole town. Guns everywhere, and every type imaginable. Other weapons too. Watch this clip on the biggest illegal gun market in the world.

This morning I woke up and I heard a DEA agent talking about how the U.S. Mexican border is a problem because of drugs and guns being smuggled into the U.S. She missed a much bigger problem-- guns being smuggled into Mexico, enough guns to destabilize the entire country. This morning's NY Times actually got it right: U.S. Is Arms Bazaar for Mexican Cartels. You probably heard about the big crackdown the U.S. and Mexico are coordinating this week against the murderous Sinaloa Drug Cartel. Last year alone over 6,000 Mexicans have been gunned down by this outfit. And the guns almost all come from one place: the U.S.A. "Drug gangs seek out guns in the United States because the gun-control laws are far tougher in Mexico. Mexican civilians must get approval from the military to buy guns and they cannot own large-caliber rifles or high-powered pistols, which are considered military weapons... Mexican authorities have long complained that American gun dealers are arming the cartels."
[T]he sheer volume of licensed dealers-- more than 6,600 along the border alone, many of them operating out of their houses-- makes policing them a tall order. Currently the A.T.F. has about 200 agents assigned to the task.

Smugglers routinely enlist Americans with clean criminal records to buy two or three rifles at a time, often from different shops, then transport them across the border in cars and trucks, often secreting them in door panels or under the hood, law enforcement officials here say. Some of the smuggled weapons are also bought from private individuals at gun shows, and the law requires no notification of the authorities in those cases.

...The Mexican government began to clamp down on drug cartels in late 2006, unleashing a war that daily deposits dozens of bodies-- often gruesomely tortured-- on Mexico’s streets. President Felipe Calderón has characterized the stream of smuggled weapons as one of the most significant threats to security in his country. The Mexican authorities say they seized 20,000 weapons from drug gangs in 2008, the majority bought in the United States.

The authorities in the United States say they do not know how many firearms are transported across the border each year, in part because the federal government does not track gun sales and traces only weapons used in crimes. But A.T.F. officials estimate 90 percent of the weapons recovered in Mexico come from dealers north of the border.

In Peshawar the gun merchants care as little about Afghans killing each other as Americans gun merchants care about Mexicans killing each other. And in this country, where gun worship is practically recognized as a religion, the government-- at least for the last 8 years-- has done virtually nothing about it, despite the volcanic situation brewing just south of our border. (Just yesterday an irresponsible gaggle of cowardly, right-wing senators tried forcing the District of Columbia to abolish its gun control laws to satisfy campaign contributors in the gun industry and the lunatic fringe of their ideological base.) Yesterday Attorney General Holder called the Mexican drug cartels "a national security threat." He's right-- and President Obama seems determined to ban the kinds of assault weapons that have been causing mayhem on both sides of the border. The context was a coordinated assault on the cartel's operations on both sides of the border. As many as 1,000 people have been arrested so far-- the raids are ongoing-- in California, Maryland and Minnesota. Watch this report from MSNBC about the nexus between the Mexican drug cartel, national security and archaic American gun worship:

That said, more Americans realize that it isn't drug use that is the threat as it is the criminal gangs capitalizing on anti-drug regulations. Recent polling shows that over 40% of Americans now favor marijuana legalisation. Barney Frank (D-MA) and Ron Paul (R-TX) proposed legalizing marijuana last year. Jim McDermott (D-WA), Pete Stark (D-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), William Clay (D-MO) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), were the only members of Congress mature enough to sign on as co-sponsors. The bill died. This year On Obama's Web site asked the public to submit policy ideas for his transition team to look at. The most popular idea, by a landslide was legalizing marijuana use. California Assemblyman Tom Ammiano has introduced a bill in the Golden State to legalize and tax pot. There are a lot of reasons to do it-- striking a blow against the Mexican drug cartels being one-- but the $1.3 billion in annual tax receipts for the hard-pressed California state government is definitely one.

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At 11:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Time to decriminalize pot not regulate it. The government has done enough harm. Time to get rid of fascism. Time to make all pander bears an endangered species.

At 6:14 AM, Blogger CTone said...

I'm sorry to break it to you, but you're being sold a lie about the gun trafficking into Mexico. This idea that Mexican criminals are pursuading Americans to buy ultra rare and extremely expensive - not to mention heavily regulated - weapons is preposterous.

The video clip that you linked to shows a Browning M2 heavy machine gun being fired. Do you have any idea how hard that weapon is to find? The going price for one is about $25k -

The video also says that the cartels are fighting with automatic weapons, as can be heard in the firefight from the footage taken on the bridge, and also the use of grenades. Other reports show that the cartels are using RPGs, M60s, mines, rocket launchers, and a variety of other weapons that are, quite frankly, either completely unavailable for purchase do to rarety, or they're so expensive that the cartels aren't going to bother.

No doubt they are buying some weapons along the border, but the automatic weapons, grenades, M60s, rocket launchers, are being acquired from either the Mexican government (they have most of those weapons in inventory), or from former soviet nations and China.

As for the failed drug war: I couldn't agree with you more. The harder we fight it the worse it gets for us, and if Mexico does manage to stop the drugs from flowing into the US, the laws of supply and demand will ensure that they come from somewhere else. At this point I'm more worried that with the uptick in violence that cartels will start bringing these weapons into the US that they're supposedly getting from here.

At 6:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Absolutely! Decriminalize it, take the business OUT of the drug cartels hands, and suddenly, they have NO INCOME. You want to strangle them at the source? Give American farmers a CA$H crop! Let it be grown and TAXED here in Ameria, instead of funneling our money to overseas scumbags. With no more business, what happens to the cartels? They crumble, that's what.

After forty years of NO PROGRESS in the drug war (we havent made a dent in supply OR demand, despite what the ONDCP and DEA tell us), isn't it tie we recognize a failed strategy, and try something new? Or rather, allow the free market to do what it's supposed to? Not to mention all the tax revenue that could be generated!

At 12:27 PM, Blogger Michael W. said...

With all the money the drug "jefes" have why would they even try to buy a weapon in the US? All they would need to do is go to any country down south of Mexico and pick up all they need, no doubt cheaper and easier. I would bet you that a large number of the weapons used, are former Mexican law enforcement or military issue. Somehow, I don't think the "strict" Mexican gun laws are a big concern to the bad guys. Particularly when the druggies have the stones to whack high ranking law enforcement and political leaders whenever the mood strikes them.

At 2:55 PM, Anonymous Joe Chapala said...

Great post, I couldn’t agree more with your sentiments.

My background and couple of comments:

I am an American that is retired and living in Mexico full time and have lived here for the last 8 years. I don’t smoke, drink or use drugs and don’t moralize about those that do as long as they don’t infringe on my space.

Commenter ‘CTone’ you didn’t mention any specific references about you being an ‘expert’ on Mexico matters. It is clear to me, that you know something about guns, actually you know a lot more about guns than I do.

Sorry to break it to you, but you don’t know frijoles (beans) about the gun trafficking into Mexico. It is common knowledge and well documented that most of the high priced fire power that the narco-traffickers have in Mexico is coming in illegally from the US.

It never ceases to amaze me that the same people that wrap themselves in the American flag and proclaim that their ‘God given’ 2nd amendment rights allow them to own almost any weapon under the sun, in the same breath say that Iran or North Korean shouldn’t be allowed to have nuclear weapons.

I agree that Iran or North Korean and probably Pakistan shouldn’t have nuclear weapons. And Charlie down the street has no business owning or selling an AK47 or Browning M2 heavy machine gun for that matter.

Regarding, “After forty years of NO PROGRESS in the drug war” comment, it depends on your point of view.

If you are apart of DEA, ONDCP and other ‘law enforcement agencies’ you have seen your operations and budgets grow. Your departments also get a piece of the drug bust ‘action’ to fund you program.

If you are manufacturer of military gear that is used to fight the War on Drugs you have also seen growth & profits.

If you are a politician, you have a moral cause to fight against. It’s a source campaign rhetoric and donor funding.

If you are in the leadership position of a drug cartel you own one of the world’ largest and profitable untaxed enterprises and you will do anything to keep it that way.

So legalization would eliminate the above referenced ‘progress’.

Guns, bullets and government troops don’t strike fear into a narco-traffickers heart, only legalization does and the prospect of greatly reduced profits.

At 3:17 PM, Blogger Dimensio said...

And Charlie down the street has no business owning or selling an AK47 or Browning M2 heavy machine gun for that matter.

Fully automatic AK-47 rifles and Browning M2 heavy machine guns are heavily restricted by federal law. Any individual who claims that such firearms are being obtained easily in the United States through legal commercial transactions and then smuggled into Mexico is lying.

At 7:21 PM, Anonymous stevie reno said...

Guys, do you not remember the NEW AK factory the Russians built for our buddy Hugo in another narco state , Venezuela, which is just south of the there. Also the Chinese run the Panama Canal (Thanks retard jimmy carter) and I am sure they might have a few weapons that might sell TO ANYONE. To transfer a machine gun , you must pay a $200 tax to the ATF, so they know who has them and where they are going.And a machine gun would have to be made before 1986, to be transferable. Any thing after that is only available for sell to law enforcement agencies.

At 10:29 AM, Blogger CTone said...

"It is common knowledge and well documented that most of the high priced fire power that the narco-traffickers have in Mexico is coming in illegally from the US."


If it's so common knowledge and well documented, then why can't Mexico seem to give the ATF serial numbers to the weapons they confiscate from the cartels? I would gather that those weapons don't have serial numbers - meaning they didn't come from the US - but instead came from the hundreds of thousands of Mexican Army soldiers that are well documented as having deserted, taking their weapons with them.

I don't know what I'm talking about? You didn't even try to refute my argument. Your telling me that drug cartels are buying unobtainable "high priced fire power" from US and using them to fight the Mexican government, yet there is more than enough evidence to the contrary.

In the US, if a person has a great deal of time and money, he or she can buy some of the types of weapons that those criminals in Mexico are using to fight the government, but only in small quantities because they are extremely rare. Weapons like the M60 machine gun, select fire AK47s, Colt M16s, grenades, RPGs; all of these can be obtained over A LIFETIME, but not in quantities to wage war. Those weapons are all used by the Mexican Army, by the way, and are available from former soviet nations that broke off the USSR after the Cold War, and are remarkably cheap to buy.

You really think 1,100 people have died to date in Mexico from handguns?

Funny, you didn't mention being an expert in Mexican gun trafficking, but you are clearly not an expert in the types of firearms and weapons that are available in the US.


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