Thursday, December 16, 2010

Blame It On Mexico

With no sense of irony (it is the right-wing, after all), Red State on December 12 posted

With the exception of, perhaps, Texas governor Rick Perry, no public official wants to publicly admit an obvious fact: The United States of America will likely be forced to invade Mexico. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. The question then becomes: What to do with Mexico after we invade it and wipe out the drug cartels (as much as can be). Does the United States merely return Mexico to a nation state of corrupt politicians, failed economic policies, and lawlessness, or do we annex Mexico and turn it into the 51st state?...

Irrespective of what happens farther down the road, the violence that is occurring today in Mexico and spilling over into the U.S. is something that cannot continue to be ignored by the administration, regardless how weak it may be. If things do not change in Mexico (or if the President refuses to secure our borders), sooner or later, the U.S. will likely have to send a large amount of troops into that country to wipe out the drug cartels.

The problem may go beyond economic policy, corruption, and lawlessness in Mexico. The Washington Post has published a series of articles under the heading "The Hidden Life of Guns," while conducting a year-long investigation into firearm violence.

The investigation has "uncovered the names of the top 12 U.S. dealers of guns traced to Mexico in the past two years," eight of them in Texas, three in Arizona, and one in California. Never mind the macho fantasy of Red State- the response of the federal government over the past 7-8 years is telling. "Researchers in law enforcement, academia and the media," the Post reports, "first began to examine gun tracing data for clues to potential illegal sales in the late 1990s" because

such information used to be available under a simple Freedom of Information Act request. But seven years ago, under pressure from the gun lobby, Congress blacked out the information by passing the so-called Tiahrt amendment, named for Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.). The law removed from the public record a government database that traces guns recovered in crimes back to the dealers.

"It was extraordinary, and the most offensive thing you can think of," said Chuck Wexler, director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a nonprofit group for police chiefs. "The tracing data, which is now secret, helped us see the big picture of where guns are coming from."

Gun sales are traced by the National Tracing Center (only), where

researchers with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives make phone calls and pore over handwritten records from across the country to track down gun owners. In contrast with such state-of-the-art, 21st-century crime-fighting techniques as DNA matching and digital fingerprint analysis, gun tracing is an antiquated, laborious process done mostly by hand. The government is prohibited from putting gun ownership records into an easily accessible format, such as a searchable computer database.

For decades, the National Rifle Association has lobbied successfully to block all attempts at such computerization, arguing against any national registry of firearm ownership.

Yet, the Post reports,

Behind the scenes, federal agents in charge of stopping gun trafficking to Mexico have quietly advanced a plan to help stem the smuggling of high-powered AK-47s and AR-15s to the bloody drug war south of the border.

The controversial proposal by officials at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives calls for a measure strongly opposed by the National Rifle Association: requiring gun dealers to report multiple sales of rifles and shotguns to ATF.

The gun issue is so incendiary and fear of the NRA so great that the ATF plan languished for months at the Justice Department, according to some senior law enforcement officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity but would not provide details

The NRA got wind of the idea last month and warned its 4 million members in a "grassroots alert" that the administration might try to go around Congress to get such a plan enacted as an executive order or rule.

The NRA has attacked not only the power and authority of the law enforcement agency, but also its staffing and, the Post has found, "has the same number of agents it had three decades ago. It can take as long as eight years between inspections of gun stores. And even when inspectors turn up evidence of missing guns, they cannot compel a dealer to take inventory.

There are real-life consequences to curtailing the personnel (chart, from, below) assigned to the ATF, as well as to the resources available, and the strict regulatory regulations imposed upon it. The Post reports

The firearms bureau inspects only a fraction of the nation's 60,000 retail gun dealers, taking as much as eight years between visits to stores. By law, the ATF cannot require dealers to conduct a physical inventory to determine whether any guns have been lost or stolen.

So as the drug trade and violence rage along the border, the interior of the U.S.A. is not spared the effects of the NRA's stranglehold on Washington. The Post built a database of all 1900 police officers killed by firearms in the last decade and "was able to track how the suspects obtained their weapons in 341 of the deaths." It found

More than 200 of the shooters were felons who were prohibited by federal law from possessing firearms. Many had spent time in prison for illegal handgun possession. At least 45 were on probation or parole when they killed an officer. At least four were previously convicted of murder or manslaughter, including a Texas man who had done time for two separate slayings and was on parole at the time he killed his third victim: a 40-year-old sheriff's deputy with a wife and three children.

The gun lobby, of course, will continue to derail law enforcement efforts in the U.S.A. amid murders of police officers and civilians. Meanwhile, realization of the dream of conquest of our southern neighbor would be a major triumph for conservatives. Sure, they would have to start a third war to do it, but imagine: as the federal deficit and debt explode, their rationale for 'starving the beast' grows; more money is borrowed from Red China- a major aim, as evidenced by their obsession with tax cuts; and with the inevitable tide of refugees coming north of the border to find employment, the cost of labor here comes down. You really can't beat a win-win-win.

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