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US to crack down on arms trafficking over Mexico border

The US Justice Department has announced plans to cut arms trafficking into Mexico by monitoring the sale of assault rifles in border states in the wake of a scandal over the 'Fast and Furious' gun tracing operation.

By Geoffrey RamseyGuest blogger / July 14, 2011

Mexican soldiers stand guard over an arsenal of guns, ammunition and grenades in Cuitlhauac, Veracruz State on March 14.

Sergio Hernandez/AFP/Getty Images/Newscom/File

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According to Newsweek/The Daily Beast, which initially broke the story, the new rules could go into effect as early as next week. They will require gun stores to notify the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) when they sell two or more semi-automatic, magazine-loading weapons to an individual within a period of five business days.

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According to a statement by Deputy Attorney General James Cole, the move is intended to crack down on the so-called “straw buyer phenomenon,” in which individuals with clean backgrounds purchase assault weapons in order to sell them to cartel middlemen. InSight Crime reported extensively on this trend in its GunRunners report.

Although the ATF is implementing an electronic system which will speed up background checks for handgun purchasers and make them easier to trace, the main target of the regulations seems to be the sale of assault weapons.

"This new reporting measure – tailored to focus only on multiple sales of these types of rifles to the same person within a five-day period – will improve the ability of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to detect and disrupt the illegal weapons trafficking networks responsible for diverting firearms from lawful commerce to criminals and criminal organizations," Cole said.

Additionally, the department has mandated tougher penalties for straw buyers, hoping to deter people from aiding criminal groups.

The policy shift is expected to be met with major resistance by gun rights advocates, who claim that it amounts to a backdoor method of circumventing the Second Amendment without congressional approval.

According to Politico’s Josh Gerstein, the National Rifle Association has vowed to sue the Obama administration the instant the ATF sends its first batch of information requests to gun dealers. However, they may have a difficult case on their hands, as the measures only catalogue purchases, and do not actually prevent them.

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