Sunday, March 28, 2010

Straw Buyers

Excélsior has a front-page story on straw buyers of American arms, making their purchases on behalf of Mexican gangs. (The Mexican papers' aptly colorful label for the buyers: ants.) American officials quoted in the piece said that most gangs have about 30 to 40 ants that make their purchases for them on the US border, and that 40 percent of said purchases are made in Texas, with others spread around California, Arizona, and New Mexico.

Perhaps I'm not thinking creatively enough about this, but I don't see how the government can do much about this without outlawing the guns that drug runners in Mexico want, which is not a likely possibility to put it mildly. Each gang has 30-40 people buying guns now, which keeps them more than amply armed. The best way to crack down on them would seem to be to start keeping a closer eye on people who make a lot of gun purchases, but that even that could cause enough of a political storm to be unfeasible. (Here's where I expose my ignorance on the subject, but I assume that if I were to make as many legal gun purchases as is possible in a given time frame, as long as I don't brag about selling them to Mexican gangs or start shooting the guns in public, no one will start investigating me.) But even if the US starts focusing on people who buy suspiciously large amounts of guns, couldn't the gangs just expand their ranks of ants five- or ten-fold, so as to make the frequency of the illegal purchases indistinguishable from your typical gun buyer? And if the straw buyers on retainer are already making so few purchases as to be not markedly different from the law-abiding gun fans, then where do we even begin?

So all this leads me to suspect that while the US should be doing more to crack down on the arms trade from a moral standpoint, within the present political boundaries, it's not realistic for US gun control policies to be a driver of a safer Mexico. Bummer.


Richard said...

Making the cartels hire more hormigas would be a start... and, the NRA is correct in saying there are gun laws now... but purchasers are only required to show ID and go through a check if they purchase from a dealer, not at a gun show... which are very, very common (like every other weekend) in border towns like El Paso.

The big weakness in U.S. law is that nothing is done about the gun shows (and very little done to prosecute fraudulent purchases through dealers), nor about mail order purchases. You can buy 15_Mils off the internet just by faxing a copy of your ID, which can be fake.

An even bigger weakness is that the U.S. doesn't WANT to enforce gun laws.

pc said...

"An even bigger weakness is that the U.S. doesn't WANT to enforce gun laws."

RIght, that's the basic problem. Until that changes, there's no reason really talking about this as though a significant improvement is in the cards. As far as making them hire more hormigas, yeah that is an improvement in that it probably makes them divert more resources and exposes them a bit more, just as cracking down on assault guns are. And both I think are correct from a moral standpoint. But neither is going to have a huge impact on the gangs here.