According to NRA jefe Wayne LaPierre, “The guys with the guns make the rules.” What if everyone has a gun? In Wayne’s world, that’s the way it should be. Wayne and his acolytes reckon America’s Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms is the foundation of our individual liberty and peaceful democracy. In other words, our “checks and balances” system of government depends on mutually assured destruction between the people and their government. Be that as it may, Wayne missed a trick: the guys with the guns and the ammo make the rules . . .

Thanks to the U.S.-sponsored Merida initiative (and other less publicized sources of funding) the Mexican military isn’t hurting for ammo. While Uncle Sam doesn’t report which military items we ship to Mexico, rest assured your tax money’s hard at work. Mexico is the second largest recipient of U.S. military exports, right after Afghanistan. Helicopters, rifles, handguns, grenades, ballistic armor, bullets—the Mexican military have everything they need to wage war.

Which is exactly what they’re doing. The “War on Drugs” is no empty political slogan south of the border. With U.S. intel and logistical support, Mexican soldiers are going mano-a-mano with vicious criminal cartel members. We could discuss whom the military’s targeting, whom they’re not targeting and why. Suffice it to say it’s the Zetas drug cartel and their allies (as opposed to the Sinaloans) in a fight-to-the-death for political control of the country.

None of the military’s opponents are hurting for guns or bullets. A single cartel’s monthly take from the illegal drug trade dwarfs the entire Merida Initiative’s three-year budget ($1.5b). If a cartel wants to buy a million rounds of ammo, they could afford to pay ten dollars a round. The laws of supply and demand keep the prices relatively low, but if they had to they could. And would.

For some reason, the exact source of the drug cartel’s guns and ammo isn’t a matter of public record or journalistic investigation. Despite the intense focus on U.S. gun store guns smuggled into Mexico, there’s no question that the “iron river” flowing from North to South represents a fraction of the weapons used by Mexican drug cartels. The ATF enabled some 2000 guns over 10 months. That’s not enough firepower to arm a single cell of a single cartel.

The vast majority of the drug cartels’ firearms come from military and law enforcement sales (from the U.S. and elsewhere) that somehow “seeped” to the bad guys, and/or pallet-loads of extra-legal imports from China, Eastern Europe and other countries where the cartels do business. The same applies to ammunition.

Tracing the cartels’ ammo source(s) would be easy enough—if the Mexican military provided info on shell casings found at shootouts. In the same way that exact details of weapons confiscated in Mexico went dark when the ATF launched Operation Gunrunner, data on spent cartel ammo is unavailable.

Bottom line: Uncle Sam doesn’t want the truth about drug cartels’ guns and ammo hitting the net. Meanwhile, remember that gunfights consume ammo at a ferocious pace. And there are lots of gunfights. And Mexican cartels are a loose and ever-changing confederation of bad guys. So yes, it’s entirely possible that freelance cartel operators are smuggling ammo from the U.S. to Mexico.

But this trade needs to be seen in its proper perspective. A message that didn’t make it to Robert Anglin at azcentral.com:

Every year, thousands of guns are smuggled into Mexico from the United States, fueling the brutal drug-cartel wars and stirring outrage on both sides of the border.

But often overlooked in the controversy are the tons of bullets that also make their way south of the border.

In Mexico, ammunition is strictly regulated and possession of even a single illegal round can lead to prison. But there is nonetheless a steady supply of bullets. Almost all of it comes from the north.

Hundreds of thousands of rounds of ammunition are purchased each year from online retailers, big-box stores and at gun shows in Arizona and other Southwest border states, then are smuggled across the border.

“It’s all coming from the U.S.,” said Jose Wall, senior trafficking agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Phoenix. “I can’t remember where I’ve seen ammunition from anywhere but the U.S.”

How about that? An Agent for ATF—the federal agency that enabled Mexican gun smugglers—reckons there’s an “iron river” of ammo flowing from the U.S. to Mexican drug thugs. It’s only a matter of time before the ATF puts a number on it, claiming that “90 percent of cartel ammunition comes from U.S. gun stores.” A stat which holds as much water as the massaged numbers used to justify Operation Fast and Furious and an executive order creating a U.S. long gun registry.

Anyway, it’s not just the source of the U.S. to Mexico ammo trade that matters. It’s the end users. Anglin’s article accepts the ATF’s assertion that all the smuggled ammo goes to the bad guys. The idea that desperate civilians would take desperate measures to defend their lives, exercising their constitutional right to keep and bear arms, never occurred to the reporter (or the ATF).

There’s plenty of evidence that average Mexicans are using guns and illegal ammo to try to stay alive. borderlandbeat.com:

The trucks entered the ranch and took up positions surrounding the house. The gunmen got out of their trucks, fired shots in the air, and announced they came to take possession of the ranch. They were expecting the terrified occupants to run out, begging for mercy with their hands in the air.

But things didn’t go as expected. Don Alejo welcomed them with bullets; the entire army of gunmen returned fire. Don Alejo seemed to multiply, he seemed to be everywhere. The minutes would have seemed endless to those who had seen him as easy prey. Various gunmen were killed on sight. The others, in rage and frustration, intensified the attack by swapping out their assault rifles for grenades.

When everything finally fell silent, the air was left heavy with gunpowder. The holes left in the walls and the windows attested to the violence of the attack. When they went in search of what they had assumed was a large contingent, they were surprised to find only one man, Don Alejo.

Alejo was dead, of course. Not widely reported: Don Alejo had more ammo than he was legally allowed. But not enough. Here’s another surprise: a lot of the American ammo crossing the border is going to the Mexican police.

As hard as it might be to believe, there are Mexican policemen who want to defend law and order and the lives of people in their community. Reflecting the Mexican feds’ complete distrust of local law enforcement (admittedly not without reason), the government has starved its police of ammo. For decades. The cops cross the border to get it.

None of this makes any difference to the gun control advocates. They continue to blame U.S. gun laws for Mexican cartel violence. Even after the ATF’s Gunwalker stingless sting was exposed. And now these gun grabbers are becoming ammo grabbers.

In contrast, though ammunition exports are regulated, few restrictions exist for buying ammunition in the U.S. Laws that once treated ammunition sales as rigorously as gun sales were repealed in 1986 and have not been re-enacted.

According to the San Francisco-based Legal Community Against Violence, a public-interest law center that seeks to prevent gun violence, the 1968 Federal Gun Control Act required sellers of ammunition to be licensed and to maintain a log of all ammunition sales. That ended with the 1986 Firearms Owners Protection Act.

Under current federal law, buyers must be U.S. citizens and have no felony convictions. Anyone over 18 can buy rifle ammunition, and anyone over 21 can buy handgun ammo. But the decision to sell 10, 100 or even 10,000 rounds of ammunition is left up to the individual retailer. Unlike with multiple handgun and rifle purchases, sellers don’t have to record the transaction or report the buyer to authorities under federal law.

Some counties and states go further and limit the types of ammunition that can be sold, have recording requirements or regulate mail-order deliveries.

A 2007 study by the Legal Community Against Violence found that only five states required licenses for ammunition sellers and only four required a license to purchase or possess ammunition. A few states restricted where ammunition can be carried, and 32 states regulated certain types of ammunition considered especially dangerous.

Since the report, California and some other states have tightened ammunition laws. California legislators are pushing new laws in response to a judge’s ruling in January that struck down a 2009 ammunition law that required, among other things, that handgun ammunition sellers keep information about buyers and all handgun bullet sales be completed face to face.

In a perfect world, the U.S. would pressure Mexico to restore its citizens’ constitutional right to keep and bear arms (and ammo) so that they can defend themselves against the cartels and, it must be said, the Mexican police and military. Given enough time, firepower and ammunition, they might even prove the truth of Wayne LaPierre’s balance of power argument.

Here in the real world, the average Mexican’s right to armed self-defense has disappeared down a rat hole. They are defenseless, scrounging for guns and ammo, knowing that doing so puts them in the crosshairs of both the cartels and their own government. And it’s going to get worse. Clock this statement by Calderon in an interview reported by borderlandbeat.com:

One change Mr. Calderón has pressed for would give the president wide latitude to declare a state of emergency and suspend constitutional guarantees, provoking criticism that the plan would worsen abuses by the military.

Wayne didn’t say it but another firearms homily applies here: beware of the man with one gun. Flipped around, pity the poor Mexican without a single gun, or the Mexican with a gun and no bullets to put in it.

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21 Responses to The Truth About Mexican Ammo Smuggling

  1. I glanced at the article you linked to at azcentral.

    Couple things struck me: no obvious way to contact the author and there is no comment section.

    It’s almost as if the Robert Anglin doesn’t want to hear anything that might be contrary to his opinion.

  2. I think it’s time to question the “2000” guns walked number. If the goal of the powers-that-be was to send lots of arms south (and apparently it was), it’s quite possible that a whole lot more guns walked “under the radar,” considering how many fit in a truckload and how easy it would have been.I hope we’re not getting that “2000” number from Holder and Friends…

    • No, there is no truth to this Internet rumor. Cerberus Capital is an independent (and intensely Republican) investment portfolio. Senior executives include Dan Quayle and John Snow. The firm is run by Steve Feinberg and Bill Richter, both major Republican donors.

      I wouldn’t be surprised if this crap was perpetuated by the Joyce Foundation or by Soros himself, just to damage the American firearms business, in which Cerberus is a major player.

  3. Thank you, for this post. There seems to be no one we can trust. I am totally opposed to any publication that does not have a comment section. Keep writing RF and I’ll keep reading.

  4. The amount of ammo seized is attributed to data provided by the US Customs and Borders Protection so therefore it is meaningless and unreliable. That USG Agency was another obvious player in the GunWalker scandal.

    The journalist was born in Los Angeles and educated at San Francisco State. My guess is that he is not a mountain boy at heart growing up hunting and fishing.

  5. As many people die killed by gunfire south of the border each month guns would not be in short supply to the brave scavenger. Of the exact same token for the brave scavenger would very likely be a useless gun because the loser of this sort of firefight is not the one who is the worse shot but typically the one who is out of bullets first. Meaning whatever shooting iron this lucky person picks up likely is out of ammo or only has a few rounds left the victim was trying to conserve and he likely isn’t holding a case of ammo on his person. I also underline “brave” because you have to act fast to take a dead man’s weapon and the fastest you can act is to take it while the area is still unsecure/under fire.

    Bullets are the fuel for all this stuff. The logistics behind black market warfare are astounding. Thanks for the quick glimpse into it.

  6. I have the suspicion that the Aquila factory in Mexico is producing cartel ammo by the ton, which is why the headstamp on expended ammo is never reported. Hecho en Mexico doesn’t apply only to drugs and violence.

  7. “One change Mr. Calderón has pressed for would give the president wide latitude to declare a state of emergency and suspend constitutional guarantees, provoking criticism that the plan would worsen abuses by the military.”

    Really Calderon? A guy in Germany once tried this and it didn’t work out too well.

    If the constitutional guarantees are suspended, then isn’t the basis for Calderon’s Presidency (and the power that goes along with it) suspended as well, thus making him nothing more than a warlord?

  8. It suddenly occurs to me that Fast and Furious is merely an appendix to the real “iron river”, which is the legal sale of military arms to Mexico. Problem is, there are numerous laws regulating arms sales which demand accountability from the receiving government so that the weapons do not fall into the wrong hands. Is any one so naive as to believe that Mexican officials, both military and civilian, are pure as the driven snow, or do we believe that there is massive corruption, which is a given at all levels of Mexican society, and half of the military arms legally sold to Mexico are then resold to organized criminals.

    No one is asking this question: What safeguards are in place to ensure that ordnance legally sold to the Mexican government stays in the Mexican government? The simple answer is: NONE.

    Operation F and F, whatever the political fallout may be, is a drop in the bucket in the Iron River. It’s the legal sales from the U.S. and other countries, massive and continuing, that supply the cartels. The House Armed Services Commitee needs to look into this, fast.

  9. Don Alejo: a man of honor defending his home and castle against men with no honor at all.
    Truly worthy of another Paul Kirchner “Deadliest Men” books…

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