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Public Statements

Comprehensive Approach to Gun Violence

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

COMPREHENSIVE APPROACH TO GUN VIOLENCE -- (House of Representatives - March 30, 2009)

Mr. LEVIN. Mr. President, earlier this month, the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence released a report, ``Exporting Gun Violence,'' that documents how Mexican drug gangs are exploiting weak U.S. gun laws and corrupt gun sellers in the U.S. to amass arsenals of high powered guns. These guns have been used to kill thousands in Mexico and pose an increasingly grave security threat to both Mexico and the United States.

Mexican law enforcement officials are increasingly being outgunned by drug gangs bearing military-style assault weapons, .50 caliber sniper rifles and other high powered weapons that originate from the United States. According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, ATF, more than 7,770 guns recovered from crime scenes in Mexico were traced back to gun dealers in the U.S. during 2008, up from 3,300 in 2007. The ATF has warned that an ``iron river of guns is streaming across the border at such a pace that some are being recovered in Mexico within days after their purchase in the U.S.''

According to the U.S. Department of State's latest International Narcotics Control Strategy report, ``U.S.-purchased or stolen firearms account for an estimated 95 percent of Mexico's drug related killings.'' Unlike Mexico's tougher gun laws, unlicensed sellers in the U.S. are allowed to sell guns without a background check, civilians are permitted to purchase military-style assault weapons, and there are no limits on the quantity of guns that can be sold at any given time. In the U.S., a trafficker can purchase as many guns they want from an unlicensed seller, no questions asked.

On March 17, 2009, both ADM James Stavridis, commander of the U.S. Southern Command, and GEN Gene Renaurt, commander of the U.S. Northern Command, testified during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, which I chaired, that the large flow of guns into Mexico and Central America from the U.S. is having a destabilizing impact in those countries. Many believe this destabilization could pose a significant national security threat to the U.S. According to the report, Mexican Attorney General Medina Mora has stated that, before the assault weapons ban in the U.S. was allowed to expire, only 21 percent of the weapons seized from traffickers were assault rifles, while today, it is more than half.

President Obama has called for a comprehensive approach to the growing level of violence in Mexico. However, unless existing gun laws are strengthened, drug cartels and criminals in Mexico and the United States will continue to build their arsenals. We must act to close the gun show loophole, reinstate the assault weapons ban and enact other commonsense gun safety legislation.


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