Houston a weapons depot for Mexico criminal insurgency

Houston Chronicle:

Drug cartel gangsters waging a criminal insurgency against Mexican society and government are making the Houston area their marketplace of choice, as they spend millions of dollars statewide buying military-style weapons and ammunition.

Gangsters have honed in on this city because of its glut of gun shops, its proximity to the border, and its long-established networks for smuggling narcotics into the United States, federal law-enforcement officials said.

The surge in fraudulent purchases comes as more than 4,000 people have died in Mexico's criminal underworld violence this year.

Authorities can point to numerous crimes, including the infamous 2007 Acapulco Massacre to illustrate the carnage brought on by Houston-bought guns that have gotten into the hands of ruthless killers.

The need for arms is increasing as Mexican drug cartels are battling one another and the government after President Felipe Calderon made restoring the rule of law his priority upon taking office two years ago.

"Our investigations show Houston is the top source for firearms going into Mexico, top source in the country," said J. Dewey Webb, special agent in charge of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' Houston division.

The agency known as ATF is trying to bring down at least three cells here it contends supply weapons to the Gulf Cartel, according to documents filed in local U.S. District Court.

Since 2007, when the investigation was launched after an audit of a gun store's sales records, agents working with Mexican counterparts have traced at least 328 Houston-bought firearms to those cells.

The ATF knows when and where some guns were used to kill police, gangsters and others in Mexico, according to the documents.

During a 15-month period in 2006 and 2007, 22 alleged conspirators paid $352,134 — in cash — for guns. The ATF contends:

•A Bushmaster carbine, a civilian version of the M-16 assault rifle, bought at an Academy sporting goods store on South Gessner was used last year by drug gangsters who disguised themselves as soldiers to massacre four police officers and three secretaries in Acapulco.
•A similar rifle was sold at a Carter's Country gun store in July 2006 and recovered two months later in central Mexico after the murder of a cattle buyer kidnapped at a small-town soccer match. At least 45 assault rifles were sold by Carter's Country to three members of the gun-purchasing group, according to court documents.
•Guns traced to Houston were used in a shootout last March that killed 11 gangsters in the Guatemala highlands.

Carter's Country, Academy and other stores are not charged with wrongdoing. They declined to comment and would not say whether changes have been made to derail cartel efforts to buy guns.


Indeed, Mexican officials estimate 90 percent of nearly 27,000 weapons seized from stash houses or recovered from crime scenes in the past two years originated in the United States.

Mexican agents in early November found 500,000 rounds of ammunition and 540 guns at a stash house in Reynosa, across the border from McAllen. Preliminary information indicates many of the guns came from the Houston area.


The ATF has prosecuted some Houston residents for purchasing guns used by the cartels. The Bushmaster seems to be one of the most popular models and two of the people charged bought several at the same time at a $1000 each using cash.

While Mexico makes it illegal to bring these weapons in, corruption and haphazard border checks make their enforcement very ineffective.

It is in the interest of the US to help Mexico fight this criminal insurgency which is shipping illegal narcotics to the US and fighting turf wars over the infiltration routes. I would think that the ATF would have an interest in anyone purchasing multiple Bushmasters for cash.


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