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Rep. Dan Goldman introduces bill to curb trafficking of guns from the U.S. into Mexico

Arming Cartels | CBS Reports
Arming Cartels: Inside the Mexican-American Gunrunning Networks | CBS Reports 22:30

Washington — Rep. Dan Goldman, a Democrat from New York, is introducing Tuesday a new bill that aims to strengthen border security by curbing the trafficking of guns and ammunition made in the United States across the southern border into Mexico.

Called the Disarming Cartels Act, Goldman's bill directs the Department of Homeland Security to enhance collaboration among federal immigration agencies and other partners to "identify, target, disrupt and dismantle" transnational criminal groups behind the exporting of firearms and other weapons across the U.S.-Mexico border. Democratic Reps. Mike Thompson of California and Joaquin Castro of Texas are joining Goldman in introducing the measure.

"Democrats and Republicans alike recognize the devastating threat posed by the fentanyl trade and human smuggling and trafficking, all of which are predominantly controlled by Mexican drug cartels at our southern border," Goldman, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, said in a statement. "But Republicans simply ignore that the source of the cartels' power is the hundreds of thousands of American-manufactured weapons of war that flow out of the United States and into the hands of the cartels. If we want to address crime across our southern border, then we must address the exportation of American guns across the border."

Castro said in a statement that through more collaboration among federal agencies and coordination with Mexican partners, the proposal will help to disrupt weapons trafficking across the U.S.-Mexico border.

"For years, American guns have fueled violence, instability, and forced migration across the Western Hemisphere," he said. "The United States can — and must — do more to stop the weapons we manufacture from landing in the hands of criminal organizations."

Thompson, chair of the Gun Violence Prevention task force, said that in addition to addressing the firearms trafficked into Mexico, the bill will help secure the southern border and stem the flow of fentanyl into the U.S.

"Firearms purchased in the United States are being illegally trafficked to Mexico, arming the cartels and fueling the fentanyl epidemic," he said in a statement. "Going after the bad actors that facilitate the exchange of guns for fentanyl will help us crack down on illegal drug trade while preventing firearms from getting into the hands of cartels and other criminal organizations."

The legislation would require Homeland Security Investigations — the investigative arm of Immigration and Customs Enforcement — to establish a system for sharing information about gun interdictions with federal partners.

Goldman's bill would also expand efforts within Homeland Security Investigations to collect and analyze information about guns found at crime scenes in Mexico in order to better track down U.S.-based weapons traffickers, and boost the Department of Homeland Security's coordination with Mexican government agencies to increase outbound inspections by Customs and Border Protection on the southern border.

The measure focusing on the trafficking of guns from the U.S. into Mexico joins other legislative efforts to curtail the flow of firearms across the border. A group of six Democratic senators introduced a bill in September that aims to address firearms trafficking, and Sen. Chuck Grassley, a Republican, pushed the Biden administration last month for more information on the steps it's taking on the matter.

Grassley's letter came after a CBS Reports investigation exposed how Americans are helping Mexican drug cartels smuggle weapons, including military-grade firearms, out of the U.S. and across the southern border. Once the guns are bought by straw purchasers in the U.S., a network of brokers and couriers transport them across the border and into Mexico.

U.S. intelligence documents and interviews with current and former federal officials revealed that the federal government has known about the weapons trafficking by drug cartels for years, but has done little to stop the networks operating in the U.S. CBS News reported that these networks move up to 1 million firearms across the U.S.-Mexico border each year.

The Government Accountability Office said in a 2021 report the trafficking of U.S.-sourced guns into Mexico is a national security threat, and suggested more data and analysis could better U.S. efforts to disrupt gun smuggling into Mexico.

To identify and dismantle drug cartels' weapons supply chains in the U.S., the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives established Project Thor, an interagency effort to address gun trafficking networks, in 2018. The initiative, however, was denied funding for fiscal year 2022. 

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