Washington, D.C.—The Department of Justice’s Inspector General, Michael Horowitz, is expected to release as early as today a report on Fast and Furious, an operation that may have allowed the smuggling of some 2,000 guns across the border in order to track the firearms to the higher-level traffickers in Mexico and dismantle their operations. While the report is expected to place blame for allowing guns to “walk” and be trafficked into Mexico, the Fast and Furious controversy has obscured the larger issue of illegal cross-border gun smuggling.
“Fast and Furious is a reprehensible operation that has become highly politicized in Washington,” says Joy Olson, Executive Director at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), an organization that promotes solutions to violence in Mexico as part of its work. “Illegal gun trafficking to Mexico is a daily problem that goes well beyond this operation,” she said.
In the past three years, 70 percent of all firearms recovered in Mexico and submitted to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) for tracing came from the United States. In 2011 the ATF found 14,504 guns in Mexico that had come illegally from the United States. More than 60,000 people have been killed in Mexico’s drug-related violence since Mexican President Felipe Calderón took office in 2006.
“Washington has been paralyzed by Fast and Furious. Politicians have to stop using the Fast and Furious debate as an excuse for not doing more to stop gun trafficking to Mexico,” said Olson. “We can’t lose sight of the fact that military-style assault rifles are ending up in the hands of vicious criminals who are killing thousands of innocent people in Mexico,” she added.
People on both sides of the border have been calling for tougher enforcement against gun trafficking. In the summer of 2011, President Obama issued a rule requiring gun dealers to report to the ATF the sale of multiple assault rifles to the same person over a period of five days. According to a 2011 poll by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, 76 percent of Latinos support this move.
“If we take a step back from the politics, surely we can all agree that there needs to be more effective enforcement along the border,” said Olson.
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