CUERNAVACA, MEXICO – High level US officials visiting Mexico to discuss illegal guns smuggling underscored their commitment to work with Mexico to fight drug violence, but shied away from discussions about renewing the assault weapons ban.
Attorney General Eric Holder told reporters in Cuernavaca, Mexico, where he and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano met with their Mexican counterparts, that they will move forward with efforts to stem illegal smuggling with the laws currently in place in the US.
“I don't think our Second Amendment will stand in the way of the efforts we have begun,” Holder said during a press conference.
The two met with for several hours with Mexican Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora, Interior Minister Fernando Gomez Mont, and Public Safety Secretary Genaro Garcia Luna ahead of a visit by President Obama later this month.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon has sent thousands of troops and federal officers across the country to tackle drug trafficking. But over 7,000 people have been killed since last January, and officials on both sides of the border have long maintained that the weapons they use flow in illegaly from the US.
The US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) says that, of the weapons seized and traced at scenes of drug violence, over 90 percent can be traced to the US.
Some question that figure, since not all seized weapons are traced, but when asked whether the figure is a myth, Mr. Holder replied that, regardless of the actual statistic, the vast majority of weapons, particularly the high-powered ones, are coming from the US and are aggravating the Mexican government’s efforts.
“This is a reality we have to face,” he said.
The meeting took place just hours after Mexican authorities announced the arrest of wanted drug suspect, Vicente Carrillo Leyva, the alleged No. 2 of the Juarez cartel.
Mr. Medina Mora say their meeting today consisted of working towards new plans to stop the flow of arms, and said that a cross-border group will be named to work on strategies. The US plans to spend more than $400 million for the upgrading of entry ports and surveillance systems along the border, Napolitano announced Wednesday in San Diego.
Mexico has also begun a pilot program on the border to inspect vehicles for illegal guns, including weighing cars for anomalies and reading license plates to gather intelligence. Medina Mora said that Mexican Customs is planning on extending the program, launched last month in Matamoros, to the rest of the northern border in the coming months.