Thursday, March 5, 2009 | 2:06 a.m.
After a two-year investigation, federal law enforcement authorities built a case against an Arizona gun dealer suspected of indirectly selling hundreds of weapons to members of Mexican drug cartels.
The dealer, whose trial began this week, is accused of knowing that many of his customers were “straw buyers” — people whose names will clear background checks. Authorities say 600 weapons he sold, including assault rifles, were smuggled to Mexico.
Drug cartels are at war with the Mexican army, police, judges, journalists — anyone their leaders believe represents a threat to the roughly $40 billion they take in every year by keeping addicts and recreational drug users in the United States supplied.
According to a New York Times story last week, officials of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives estimate that 90 percent of the guns recovered from drug-related killings or drug dealers in Mexico come from U.S. dealers.
This helps put the prosecution of one gun dealer into perspective. According to the Times, there are 6,600 gun shops in multiple cities and towns just north of the U.S.-Mexican border.
In December we wrote that Americans’ demand for drugs is fueling the drug war in Mexico. Now it is clear that many American gun shops are also playing a big role, one that infuriates Mexican authorities and raises serious safety issues here.
A federal law-enforcement operation that began nationally about two years ago recently netted 750 people suspected of having affiliations with Mexican drug cartels. Mountains of drugs and arms were confiscated.
On CBS’ “60 Minutes” Sunday, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said, “The stakes are high for the safety of many, many citizens of Mexico, and the stakes are high for the United States.”
Attorney General Eric Holder calls the situation “a national security threat.”
Mexico should start searching more of the vehicles entering from its northern border. And we should be nothing short of rigorous in enforcing our gun laws. The cartels killed 6,000 people last year. Enough said.