To judge by the comments that poured in after I wrote this story about the smuggling of automatic weapons from the U.S. to Mexico, many Americans don’t believe that it is happening. And they told me so in dozens of emails and postings.
They say the Mexican drug cartels use automatic weapons, not the semiautomatic weapons available at gun shops in Texas and Arizona.
The cartels are stealing their weapons from the Mexican army, getting them from Central America and buying them on the world market. But getting them at a gun shop in Houston or Phoenix? No way, Jose.
In fact, it is not hard to alter an AK-47 semi-automatic weapon into a fully automatic one. A Mexican army general showed me how. And regardless of what some readers say, the guns are flowing across the border. Just today, the customs and immigration branch of Homeland Security announced that it had caught a pickup truck with 15 AK-47s coming across the border (press release here).
“Federal agents received a call from Hidalgo Police Department after officers conducted a traffic stop on the city's east side on highway 281. During the officer's routine inspection of the vehicle, they identified suspicious activity. ICE HSI agents arrived at the scene of the traffic stop and took the vehicle to the Hidalgo Port of Entry where U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers conducted an intensive examination of the vehicle. It was during the examination that officers discovered the rifles hidden inside the fuel tank of the pickup truck.
"Weapons trafficking fuels violence by criminal organizations and threatens the security of communities along our borders and throughout the country," said Jerry Robinette, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in San Antonio."
Authorities arrested the driver and the passenger, Antonio Ibarra, 41, and Edwardo Ibarra, 37, respectively, on state charges for firearms smuggling.