Thursday, February 26, 2009

U.S. Is Arms Bazaar for Mexican Cartels

Thomas G. Mangan, a spokesman for the A.T.F., with an assault rifle popular with drug cartels.

U.S. Moves Against Top Mexican Drug Cartel

A gun tied to a killing in Mexico and a dealer in Phoenix.

The Mexican agents who moved in on a safe house full of drug dealers last May were not prepared for the fire power that greeted them. When the shooting was over, eight agents were dead. Among the guns the police recovered was an assault rifle traced back across the border to a dingy gun store here called X-Caliber Guns. Now, the owner, George Iknadosian, will go on trial on charges he sold hundreds of weapons, mostly AK-47 rifles, to smugglers, knowing they would send them to adrug cartel in the western state of Sinaloa. The guns helped fuel the gang warfare in which more than 6,000 Mexicans died last year.

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.

How ironic: gun laws are tougher in Mexico, so the narcos go over the border to the US to get weapons to protect their business of providing US noses with coke. Permission from the military to buy guns; imagine that. There could still be corruption, of course, but that ensures much greater control. And military weapons are restricted to the military.

The ease with which Mr. Iknadosian and two other men transported weapons to Mexico over a two-year period illustrates just how difficult it is to stop the illicit trade, law enforcement officials here say.

A native of Egypt who spent much of his life in California, Mr. Iknadosian moved his gun-selling operation to Arizona in 2004, because the gun laws were more lenient, prosecutors said.

He moved to where gun laws were more lenient.

Over the two years leading up to his arrest last May, he sold more than 700 weapons of the kind currently sought by drug dealers in Mexico, including 515 AK-47 rifles and one .50 caliber rifle that can penetrate an engine block or bulletproof glass, the A.T.F. said.

Why does a civilian need a .50 caliber weapon? Not to shoot deer, or even bear.

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