House Committee Debates Guns and Mexican Border

     WASHINGTON (CN) – The House Judiciary Committee heard proposals Wednesday for increased gun control inside the United States as a means of cutting down on drug violence along both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. “How many officers have to be killed before we impose more gun regulation,” asked Representative Jackson Lee, a Texas Democrat.

     Democrats have called for better gun control within the United States which they say supplies 90 percent of the firearms seized in Mexico, guns that have contributed significantly to that country’s epidemic of violence. Mexico itself enforces strict gun laws where residents are allowed only non-military, low-caliber guns with long prison terms for those who violate gun laws.
     But Republicans on the Judiciary Committee argued against gun control in the United States, maintaining that Mexican officials need to do more to stop the smuggling of guns into their country.
     In the last two years, Mexican President Felipe Calderon has conducted a campaign to reduce the power of the Mexican drug cartels, a campaign accompanied by a surge in the number of violent deaths related to drug smuggling. Anthony Placido, a representative of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, told the committee that the campaign has had a measurable effect on the cartels, forcing them to fight over valuable drug corridors.
     Assistant Deputy Attorney General Stuart Nash added that the price of a gram of cocaine has doubled, since the Mexican crackdown, even as purity of the product fell 35 percent.
     Committee members noted that the violence has spread deep within the United States. The Tucson Citizen reported, for example, that five men were found dead with their throats slit as far away from the Mexican border as Birmingham, Alaska. They had been electrically shocked before they were killed for a drug debt estimated at $400,000.
     The United States has since dispatched hundreds of extra agents along the border and is searching all cargo trains for guns that are destined for Mexico, said Deputy Director William Hoover of the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives.
     He told the committee that a high percentage of the arms flowing into Mexico come from Houston and South Texas.
     Texas Republican Lamar Smith commented, “Regrettably, some are using the violence along the border as justification for stricter gun laws.”
     Representative Ted Poe, also a Texas Republican, took a similar line. “It seems like Mexico has a responsibility in keeping guns from coming in,” he said, “like we do with drugs.”

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