Patriot's Blog

The Border Debates' Missing Argument Part 3

How guns go south

So-called “straw purchasers” play a key role in firearms trafficking from the U.S. to Mexico and other points south. Typically “straw purchasers” are intermediary or middleman buyers who purchase and execute all the paperwork required for a legal firearm transaction on behalf of someone else. These purchasers are usually American citizens who adhere to U.S. gun laws, including passing a background check or meeting other applicable federal and state gun laws.

In many cases, “traffickers will run a ring of straw buyers,” said Kristen Rand, the legislative director for the Violence Policy Center. “The traffickers are exploiting the background check system because they just find people who can have the background check, and as long as they don’t raise suspicion with the dealer, then it’s difficult to identify that this is illegal.”

Straw buyers also evade suspicion typically by avoiding buying guns in bulk. Instead of going to stores and buying 20 or 40 guns at a time, straw buyers often buy only one or two weapons, Rand said.

Once the guns are purchased, traffickers face the next challenge: smuggling them across the border without getting caught. But traffickers have ways to surmount this obstacle as well.

For starters, guns can be disassembled into many parts, making them easier to hide.The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and Mexican government officials, have told the U.S. Government Accountability Office that smuggling weapon parts often limits bilateral collaboration to trace firearms, according to a 2016 GAO report that looks at U.S. efforts to combat gun trafficking.

A 2016 study by the Small Arms Survey, an independent research project that’s part of the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland, found that the majority of weapons trafficked from the U.S. into Mexico are smuggled over land in vehicles. The type of vehicles vary, as well as the manner in which weapons are concealed, factors that further complicate government efforts to stop the smuggling, the study noted.

Trafficking cases documented from 2009 and 2015 reveal the variety of ways gun runners hide guns in vehicles.

“Trafficked weapons were hidden in every conceivable location, including in the fuel tank, above the exhaust system, and under the bumpers,” the study said.


This will conclude the third part of this blog and will be broken in a series. Look forward to next week were we continue the conversation that is often missed, thank you for reading.