US House committee holds forum on border gun trafficking

By Diana Washington Valdez / El Paso Times
Posted: 06/30/2011 01:05:41 PM MDT

The committee received testimony from three ATF agents regarding the U.S. agency's controversial "Fast and Furious" operation that allowed weapons to enter Mexico that were used to kill people.

According to the committee's report, ICE Agent Jaime Zapata was murdered on Feb. 15 with a high-caliber Romarm-Cugir Draco pistol that was traced back to a dealer in Texas. The weapon "has the same firing capacity as the AK-47, can hold a 75-round drum magazine, and can penetrate protective vests," the report said.

ATF Agent Peter Forcelli testified that existing U.S. gun laws are toothless. "Some people view this as no more consequential than doing 65 in a 55 (mph zone).

Guns from the United States are being used to kill other U.S. citizens as well, including 111 U.S. citizens who were slain in Mexico last year, which is a 70 percent increase from four years before that, the report said.

Of 75,000 weapons seized in Mexico over the past three years, more than 80 percent were traced back to U.S. sources.

The drug cartels prefer high-caliber handguns and rifles, and appear to have no trouble obtaining military-grade weapons.

U.S. guns are contributing to the brutal cartel wars in Juarez, according to other testimony.
"In Ciudad Juarez, the (homicide) rate has increased from 14.1 to 170.4 per 100,000 people," the report said. "Nationally, the leading cause of death for Mexicans between the ages of 15 and 44 is homicides."

Cummings will issue a report with recommendations to provide U.S. law enforcement with the tools needed to address gun trafficking.

Diana Washington Valdez may be reached at; 546-6140.