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February 15th, 2010
12:00 PM ET

The Gun Trail: Riding along with Houston's ATF

Editor’s Note: As drugs and violence flow north from Mexico, guns are heading south from the U.S. Our Ed Lavandera rides along with an ATF agent for part one of the American Morning original series “The Gun Trail.” Tomorrow, he heads to Savannah, Georgia to see how gun smugglers are taking advantage of the state's weaker gun laws, and why shop owners say they're not part of the problem.

A sign warning border-crossers that weapons are forbidden in Mexico is posted on the streets of the border town of Lukeville, Arizona.

A sign warning border-crossers that weapons are forbidden in Mexico is posted on the streets of the border town of Lukeville, Arizona.

By Ed Lavandera, CNN

We drove the streets of Houston with an agent from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). We can't tell you who he is because he's in the midst of the biggest case he's ever worked; battling lethal Mexican drug cartels on American streets.

"We started seeing [the guns] popping up in Mexico and then further down in Guatemala is where it really opened our eyes that we're onto something pretty big here," the agent says.

What they found was a trail from Houston to Guatemala littered with almost 340 guns purchased by so-called "straw buyers” – 23 Houston-area residents, all with squeaky clean records and legally allowed to buy guns.

Investigators say almost 100 of those guns have since turned up at crime scenes south of the border, in the hands of the drug cartels.

Watch "The Gun Trail" part one Video

"They're fighting each other for turf in Mexico. And unfortunately, many law enforcement and civilians are being killed in that fight," says Special Agent in Charge Dewey Webb.

Investigators say John Phillip Hernandez, a regular guy in his mid-20s, was at the center of the elaborate straw-purchasing scheme.

According to ATF investigators, Hernandez recruited a crew of 23 people to purchase firearms for the drug cartels at gun shops across Houston.

Court documents show Hernandez bought six weapons and ammunition at a Houston gun shop and one of those weapons was later connected to the kidnapping and murder of a Mexican businessman.

Hernandez also admitted to buying weapons used in the infamous 2007 “Acapulco massacre," where seven people, including four police officers, were slaughtered by a dozen armed drug traffickers.

According to court documents, Hernandez purchased four weapons at one shop where the owner told us Hernandez then returned a few weeks later flashing $20,000 in cash and wanting to buy 20 more weapons. The owner says he rejected the sale.

Investigators say the cartels paid Hernandez $100 to $200 each time they bought a firearm.

"People that are buying drugs in the United States have just as much blood on their hands as the people pulling the trigger in Mexico," says Agent Webb.

John Phillip Hernandez is now serving an eight year prison sentence after pleading guilty. But this ATF agent says as one ring is broken up, new rings can quickly emerge on Houston's streets, on the gun trail from America to Mexico.


Filed under: Crime • The Gun Trail
soundoff (76 Responses)
  1. Paul Bahre

    Guns are not the evil in this equation. The evil is that the government wants to prolong a prohibition on drugs that creates a situation that gives rise to the criminal element coming to the fore to distribute and market the drugs. If they were not illegal then the criminal gangs would have to pursue other means of making money. Those means would not have the mass appeal that drugs do. Thus the criminal gangs would be marginalized by ending the prohibition.

    March 2, 2010 at 2:38 pm |
  2. Ernest Griffin

    The law's in this country protect the criminal not law abiding citizen's.What do expect from a goverment built by crook's

    March 2, 2010 at 2:04 pm |
  3. Paul Bahre

    The root cause of this is the prohibition of drugs. If that prohibition did not continue you would not have all these heinous crimes. Legal drugs would be purchased at a drug store and all the drama and guns and killing would be left out of he equation. If a person wants to kill themselves on the installment plan they would be perfectly allowed to do so. Bu much of the resources spent on law enforcement could be channeled into drug rehabilitation and education. Much like alcohol education. American's drink and smoke far less than our European cousins do because of effective Alcohol treatment and education that we have here in the US. Think about it America, you want to continue this "WAR on Drugs?" which coincidentally, was started by Richard Nixon, or do you want real lasting peace on your streets and the streets in the rest of this Hemisphere?

    February 26, 2010 at 12:52 pm |
  4. Rene Ornes

    Sure some weapons are from U.S. however we must look at big picture.In a country where common people may not carry arms only the outlaws will have them.Thes cartells are connected well enough to buy weapons from broke Mexican Police and the Military. Corruption still exisists in Mexico and will continue,these people will do anything steel ,smuggle, scam,sell guns drugs and kidnap to advance there economic outlook.
    The good law abiding citizens are victims and as long as Mexico tries to defend there people and does not give there people a chance to defend themselves the situtation will only get worse
    Concerned Border resident.

    February 22, 2010 at 11:33 am |
  5. Jim

    I'm amazed at the number of people who insist this can't be happening. I guess admissions by the gun shop owner and the buyer aren't credible. Of course, I'm sure *none* of those guns had serial numbers that could be traced to US shops and sales.

    February 22, 2010 at 8:50 am |
  6. Katie

    Legalize drugs and let the mexicans kill each other. Allow the border patrol to shoot on sight anybody trying to cross our border. We're too 'nice' to these people. Their government is the problem and it's not our job to take care of them. Imagine how quickly we'd pay China back if we legalized pot. Alcohol kills many people yearly, you never read about people dying from smoking a little bit of pot yet alcohol is perfectly legal–it just doesn't make any sense.

    February 22, 2010 at 6:37 am |
  7. Robyn

    As a person who has witnessed first hand the violence in the streets of Mexico, I suggest you ALL do a little research on your own before commenting. The ATF and the DEA have an EXTREMELY difficult task dealing with these cartels and the violence they produce. And for those of you who don't know – they already have roots in this country and their tactics will begin showing up here as it already has in Phoenix, AZ and Albuquerque, NM! The death toll estimated in the last two years alone in Mexico is well over 14,000. The El Paso times is always running articles but very rarely does the Mexican drug war make the main stream news. Before you all start screaming about your gun "rights" (and I am a gun owner!) follow what is going on down there! I have been for the past two years and it is shocking! Kudos from me to the ATF and DEA agents who risk their lives every day.

    February 21, 2010 at 6:08 pm |
  8. David

    More ridiculous anti gun press. Considering the number of laws the drug cartels violate this whole concept is ridiculous.

    They break hundreds of laws, on both sides of the border routinely, including murder, and you're blaming US gun law?

    Get serious! Advocate the legalization of drugs, which would immediately take the crime out of it, Advocate honest border control. Publicize the percentage of income, lawyers, judges, law enforcement agencies, etc derive from the so called war on drugs. We are fast reaching the point that drugs fuel our economy. The true reason we don't legalize drugs is we can't, our economy would collapse.

    Press about these would be honest public service. Leave off the cheap shots.

    David

    David

    February 21, 2010 at 6:05 pm |
  9. txgirl

    Hey BOB IN AUSTIN, do your reading before you hit your caps lock, I made no statement about " out of state" but thanks for the rant.

    February 21, 2010 at 12:44 pm |
  10. Jeff

    Debbie, what am I scared of? Not just the murder's and rapists that the broken justice system "recycles" into our community well before their mandatory jail-time has been served, but animals that just don't have reasoning skills. Two of my friends and myself have been attacked by a hundred pounds of fur and teeth. I feel that I would rather be able to defend myself and those I care about, than call 911 and hope help gets there in time. And I do know, for a fact that outside city limits, a mere 3 blocks from my house, police response can exceed a half hour. Long time to bleed and hope that the almighty government will save me. I prefer to take charge of my own fate.

    February 21, 2010 at 9:48 am |
  11. someonewithabrain

    The blood is on the hands of the stupid, failed drug war sponsored by our vigilante government. The agent blaming the drug user should also look in the mirror when handing out blame for the problem. His job depends on the drug war, just like the cartels. Legalizing drugs and the cartels have nothing to fight over.

    Addicts didn't cause the drug war. People will always use drugs, just like people have since the dawn of time. Drug use on its own should not be a crime. Prescription pain pill addicts are junkies too, but we tolerate that. Legalize all drugs, levy taxes on them and we have new revenue we can use for other projects along with treatment centers.

    Throwing billions of dollars every year into a failed drug war has not worked in the twenty plus years it's been tried. Give it up already. Use the money for something besides prohibition, and the drug cartels will disappear. How many more billions will be wasted on this money pit of a failed drug war before collectively we wake up?

    February 20, 2010 at 7:31 pm |
  12. SteveLife

    First off, "regular guys" don't work for the drug cartels. Second, the BATF always pushes for the removal of weapons from private citizens and not once has made a suggestion of tougher sentencing. Make the use of a gun during the commission of a crime a life sentence period or death if so deserved. That means that "regular guy" John Phillip would be doing life and not 8 years. Thirdly, go back to journalism school. Learn to report FACTS and stop being an entertainer. You're not good at it.

    February 20, 2010 at 11:00 am |
  13. Cynthia W. Wright

    Guns kill, and gun nuts are all for it, hiding under the guise of self-defense. Unfortunately, all too often the innocent pay the ultimate price.

    February 20, 2010 at 9:08 am |
  14. gomez

    how many of you would drugs if they became legal. If drugs were made legal all this would go away. But the rich like it like this, they would loose their god, oop's I mean money if it changed. that would mean cheap material made from hemp which is also green materials
    with a lot less pollution.

    February 19, 2010 at 11:30 pm |
  15. Randy Holder

    I'm sick and tired of this liberal slant...I'm about to vomit!! It's ALWAYS the guns, it's never the bad men waging the war or shooting at each other.

    Here's a thought. Mexico is an unarmed society, as is Iraq, Iran, Germany under Hitler...they don't/didn't WANT an armed populace able to fight back.

    I wish these liberal hacks would keep writing about their tree huggin' Bohemian friends and leave the guns, and their use, to people with the know how.

    February 19, 2010 at 8:14 pm |
  16. Sternberg

    Why would the ybuy guns from America? Most of our guns are made by Norinco in China, who will gladly sell anything to any one, with one or two less middlemen to add to the price.
    This article has the appearance of a pure propaganda piece.

    February 19, 2010 at 6:58 pm |
  17. Leo

    This story is based on a lie used by those who wish to strip Americans of their 2nd Amendment rights. An excuse is needed to justify reinstating the assault weapons ban, and they figure this one is as good as any. Well folks, it's wrong. 100% Wrong. Want to know why guns are illegal in Mexico? So that the people can never again revolt against their government. That's 100% true. Don't believe me, ask any Mexican citizen.

    February 19, 2010 at 3:42 pm |
  18. Leo

    Why don't you report the truth? The full auto weapons used by cartels in Mexico are not being purchased at gun shops in the U.S. . I know this because it is illegal to buy and sell full auto weapons unless you have both a permit to buy and a permit to sell. Both these permits are ridiculously expensive and can only be attained by a very select few that can justify the sale and purchase permits to both local and federal agencies. The truth is that the cartels are purchasing their weapons from the south. Yes, the south as in Central and South America. They get their stuff directly from foreign governments that don't give a hoot what they do or who they kill with it. That's the truth. The US is not responsible for arming the cartels. If anything, the US might be responsible for getting arms into the hands of defenseless Mexican citizens who need them to protect themselves from the cartels. Tell the truth.

    February 19, 2010 at 3:31 pm |
  19. Racist gun owner

    Legalize the green, shut down the border to Mexico and let all 50 states have a conceal carry law for "law abiding, tax paying citizens" like myself. Guns are just tools. It's how they're used that makes all the difference. The media wants to distort our perception of this gun and drug game with the Mexican cartels, but judging by all the reader comments, they're not fooling any of us. Why aren't strict regulations placed on knife ownership? People are stabbed everyday all over the country. John, I love what you said, "The problem with gun control is that it's like trying to stop drunk driving by making it more difficult for sober drivers to buy cars....." LOL, classic!!! NRA FOREVER!!!!!!

    February 19, 2010 at 3:11 pm |
  20. dockwobbler

    What about the 243 Guns lost by officers of the Department of Homeland Security...why is that not an automatic fire and restriction from again joiing law enforcment???

    February 19, 2010 at 1:45 pm |
  21. dockwobbler

    What about the 243 Guns lost by officers of the Department of Homeland Security...why is that not an automatic fire and restriction from again joiing law enforcment???

    http://www.cnn.com/2010/POLITICS/02/18/government.guns/index.html?iref=allsearch

    February 19, 2010 at 1:37 pm |
  22. Frank

    Let's get this right, law abiding US Legal citizens are not the ones purchasing weapons for Drug Cartels. Another spin to tighten Gun Laws. Anyone that buys a firearm that is used to committ a Crime that was involved should be prosecuted to extreme. Someone is always trying to change our 2nd amend as a Right to bear arms. Some one is always trying to spin this. I am glad I live in a State that allows the average LAW abiding citizen to carry and protect themselves. Most of us legal LAW abiding citizens can not afford to hire security or live in a "Gated Community" protected by a Security team.

    February 19, 2010 at 1:24 pm |
  23. Bob in Austin

    txgirl wrote: "I can also purchase the same handgun from a number of websites and have the gun shipped directly to me(no background check). " – Not without violating federal law you can't!! Any firearm purchased out of state MUST be shipped to a Federal Firearms License holder. That licensed dealer, by federal law, MUST perform a background check on you before selling you that firearm. Apparently you don't know the laws as well as you think you do!! DO YOUR RESEARCH BEFORE SPOUTING OFF ERRONEOUS INFORMATION!!!

    February 19, 2010 at 8:47 am |
  24. debbie

    You all sound like a bunch of wild west gun toten cowboy wannabees. Why are you so scared?

    February 18, 2010 at 2:31 pm |
  25. Bob in North Carolina

    I am gratified to see that the majority of postings on this article get it. The problem in Mexico is not guns from America – the overwhelming majority of cartel guns come from elsewhere. The problem is the cartels and corrupt government, as well as our own weak administration's refusal to protect the borders. CNN, this "riding the gun trail" nonsense has long since worn itself out. Get a real story, stop attacking our constitutional rights, and stop blaming legal gun ownership in America for Mexico's problems.

    February 18, 2010 at 9:08 am |
  26. Glen

    I get it! Ratings are in the toilet, and more people get their news from a bathroom wall that by listening to CNN. So the answer is to run a sting of brain-damaged articles touting gun control, knowing that everyone has to click on the site to comment on how dumb the article is. Good thinking, but I really think you guys are done.

    February 17, 2010 at 10:47 pm |
  27. holts

    RPG's, grenades and grenade launchers are available to weapons manufacturers only which require licensing from the ATF.

    Mexico does not allow it's citizens to own firearms unless their well connected with the corrupt government.

    Canada has a more open border then Mexico yet it doesn't have the same problem of crime and gun smuggling from the US. It's not the easy access to guns it's the criminal element and corrupt government of a country. If we band guns in the US, the Mexicans will find a way to get guns.

    Meanwhile our Constitutional right will be violated. Don't worry CNN will save us from our oppressive gov. Lavandera is bullet proof.

    February 17, 2010 at 3:28 pm |
  28. holts

    As the AFT report last year pointed out only 17% of these guns originated from the US. Now of those fully automatic machine guns, grenade launchers, RPG's and hand grenades, the more deadly weapons are available for the average citizen in the US unless you have a class three weapons permit and lots of money to pay $10000 for an M16. Lavandera just can't do honest research.

    California which gets a A rating from the Brady Campaign,has a one gun a month law. If these 23 individuals bought the guns from CA. in one year 276 guns would have gone to Mexico; not a significant difference. CA. with it's strict gun laws is one of the major suppliers of illegal guns to Mexico. Lavandera deleted the fact about California because that would just contradict CNN's agenda for more gun control.

    February 17, 2010 at 3:18 pm |
  29. The Truth

    What is amazing to me is people act as if guns are illegal in Mexico. News flash they are not. The criteria is the weapons cannot fire a military caliber. SO that is why one single round of 9MM gets you like a mandatory five years or something of that nature. They can have 38 Super, which is one of their favorites, but ballistically the same as a 9MM +P round.

    See how idiotic asinine liberal gun laws are. You attempt to punish the bad at the expense of really punishing the law abiding citizens.

    Once you get rid of Mexico's corruption within its government, and lock down our borders, this problem is null.

    February 17, 2010 at 2:21 pm |
  30. James in NC

    This story makes no sense. The facts just don't add up.

    1) Guns bought legally in the US, even if by "Straw Purchasers" are only handguns and semi-automatic rifles. The M16s, AKs, and submachine guns that the Mexican cartels have been using are not coming from the US. They are coming from deeper in South America where they were sent by the Governments of the world during the Cold War.

    2) Multiple guns purchases, including the purchase of more than one gun from a single gun shop during a seven day period requires additional paperwork to the 4473 Form. So the ATF should easily be able to see who is buying number of guns.

    3) Retail gun prices are steep! Why would the cartels have some US screwball spend $1000 on a new handgun in a legal purchase when they can get milsurplus on the South American black market for $100?

    February 17, 2010 at 10:23 am |
  31. jharry3

    "People that are buying drugs in the United States have just as much blood on their hands as the people pulling the trigger in Mexico," says Agent Webb

    This says it all: The drug users have blood on their hands – shun them like a stinky turd.
    If you are a user of illegal drugs just remember that you are facilitating murder for your little "high".

    February 17, 2010 at 10:14 am |
  32. Nate

    The number that was used in the episode I saw was around 5000 illegal guns flowing up the East coast. If an illegal gun sells for, maybe $2000? it is an industry worth $7.5M. I can't believe that this is hugely attractive to a large cartel.

    February 17, 2010 at 9:48 am |
  33. rinfanti

    Why cant we CLOSE the border up so this can not happen? BTW most all of the guns do not come from the US.

    February 17, 2010 at 7:26 am |
  34. Luis

    My son is a border patrol agent.
    I believe that if a weapon bought in the states and is used against police or agents of any other friendly country or our own people, not only the culprit but the person that purchased and sold the shooter the weapon should both be prosecuted by the law and sued by the family of the victim.
    That should make it very difficult for sales of weapons to drug gangs.
    These so called "good standing" citizens are empowering these monsters to kill our kids manning our defense and I consider them just as evil as the trigger men..

    February 16, 2010 at 11:56 pm |
  35. john

    The problem with gun control is that it's like trying to stop drunk driving by making it more difficult for sober drivers to buy cars.....

    February 16, 2010 at 8:34 pm |
  36. Desert Sage

    Put them in a Mexican prison.

    February 16, 2010 at 7:52 pm |
  37. Urziel

    This is the biggest bag of BS I've heard in a while. Drug cartels can get their hands on firepower that make that semi-auto AR-15 you can get at the local gun store look like BB-Gun by comparison. It sounds like the media is making a new push to infringe on the rights of the law-abiding again.

    February 16, 2010 at 6:37 pm |
  38. Aaron

    CNN, please do a story on the positive aspects of gun ownership in this country.
    And please leave this story open for comments for more than your customary hour or so...

    February 16, 2010 at 5:51 pm |
  39. Chuck

    The truth about Mexico. For decades now, USA has been knowingly sending money to a corrupt Mexican government that ignores or abuses it's people. Over 20 years ago, newspaper editors speaking out about corruption were being gunned down in broad daylight. For decades most Mexicans have lived in poverty while a small group of powerbrokers live opulant lifestyles. Kind of a more crude version of what is happening now with the banks and healthcare in our country. Mexico is a more obvious example of what is wrong in our country; the fat cats pull the strings, politicians posture and the rich get richer.

    Unless and until any government starts representing the people and quits allowing banks, insurance giants, ceo's and the bootlicking politicians they buy, to control policy, things will remain the same. Of course with the recent sleezy supreme court ruling making it easier now for corporations to set the agenda and weak minded fools who allow bible thumping, flag waving hypocrits to lead them (Sarah Palin anyone?) we are bound to travel a rocky road.

    February 16, 2010 at 5:49 pm |
  40. LarryMN

    And just when I thought my opinion of CNN was at an all time low!

    February 16, 2010 at 4:55 pm |
  41. Ken

    We have the law(s) in place. Use these law(s) that are in place to prosecute those who are breaking them to the fullest extent. Stop wasting time and my tax dollars on new laws and the inane publicity and fanfare that accompanies the passage or attempted passage of them. Chase the mules who are moving firearms across the border and hit them hard instead of the law abiding citizen who has followed the rules and respects the laws that we already have in place.

    February 16, 2010 at 3:32 pm |
  42. MARK C-VIRGINIA

    HAH, If you really want to see a gun trail,,, take a look at I-95 through Virginia to NYC..

    February 16, 2010 at 2:58 pm |
  43. rene

    If you really wanted to deal with this, drugs have to be legalized to some degree. Make it legal to possess but illegal to use. If the profit motive was eliminated, nobody would even try to smuggle them because there is no more profit. It may make the problem worse for the countries that continue to enforce this prohibitionist mentality. For the record, I personally think that it's a stupid thing to do to yourself, but I don't believe that what I think about it should control what others are legally allowed to do in a free society.

    February 16, 2010 at 2:06 pm |
  44. txgirl

    There's nothing in this story that sounds even remotely true to me. I live in TX. I know the gun laws. I have a squeaky clean background. Ican go down the road to my neighborhood gun store and purchase a handgun from the helpful staff there. I can also purchase the same handgun from a number of websites and have the gun shipped directly to me(no background check). I can also go down to the 7-11 parking lot and trade my .38 to "Roy" for his .45. All perfectly legal in the great state of TX. Then there are the gun shows, well there were the gun shows, anyway, I think I've made my point. A story about a group of people with "clean backgrounds" buying guns legally from gun stores in TX for a cartel, ummm c'mon, really?!

    February 16, 2010 at 1:34 pm |
  45. MarkCM

    Make the transport and sale of drugs from Mexico so severe that many of these runners will think twice. Do the same for knowingly selling guns to these same people. We don't need more gun laws piled on the American people. We do need protection from these drug and gun running illegals that should not be crossing our borders to begin with. Deal with the illegal entry problem.

    February 16, 2010 at 12:39 pm |
  46. John Harris, NC

    Its's more than gun laws in the Nation that isn't working. Money talks in this country. People who've been charged with gun crimes, seldom do any kind of real time. I know everyone wants there to be harsher penalties against gun crimes, but in reality the prisons and jails are slam full of people who have been convicted of gun, drug, and violent crimes already. I know of several people in this country that have been charged countless times with every kind of crime you can think of and are still out walking the streets. These people know our system is a joke, they know all they have to do is pay some money to their hotshot lawyer and they know they are going to get intensive probation at worst. Our judicial system simply cannot afford to put a low level thug in our prison system for a long amount of time, probation is a much cheaper alternative.

    Secondly, our country is in a bind because of few jobs...People are getting turned down by McDonalds for employment. A normal person will do something he normally wouldn't do when faced with a difficult situation, like trying to provide for his family with no job. You got two main border towns that is in the thick of the Cartel Violence: Tijuana and Juarez Mexico. The Cartels are likely using low income/No income, people from San Diego or El-Paso because they are much easier prey when persuading them to buy guns for a few hundred dollars. On the same note, where else are the Cartels going to get their guns? After the battles are over, the Mexican police, or Mexican Feds seize and destroy the weapons, thus creating the need for more weapons. It's convenient to get guns from America because they are literally right next door.

    This isn't a perfect country and no one should expect such a thing, but things could be changed for the better. The laws that have been enacted to work in concert together.....If one law doesn't work then all of them won't.

    February 16, 2010 at 12:05 pm |
  47. Joe the Plumber

    I am heartened by the clarity of thinking displayed by the comments attached to this "story". The fact that 95% of the comments share a common theme, and that the theme is not a simple acceptance of the "facts" of the story gives me hope that the people of the USA are not the complacent sheep that the media frequently portrays them as. The writers of the comments point out that:

    1. The cost of buying guns in Mexico, Central America, and South America is far, far lower than the cost of buying guns at retail stores in the US, adding a 200 or 300$ commission, and smuggling them South across the border. Economically, it is ridiculous for criminals in Mexico to focus on getting weapons in the USA....so the underlying premise of this story is simply wrong.

    2. The problem with the "war on drugs" is that it cannot be won, but it *can* be used as a policy excuse to spend billions of US taxpayer dollars to fund police authorities, foreign governments, and "missions" which would not be approved by the majority of the voting US public. Simply, it is an excuse for US agencies to continue to operate in ways that US citizens do not support.
    As people here have noted, simply legalizing low level drugs like marijuana and taxing them would effectively put all the majority of these violent criminals out of business through simple economics. Poof! End of 90% of the "War on Drugs".

    3. Attempting to use this kind of poorly investigated and context free "story" to undermine the Second Amendment rights of law abiding US citizens in the name of "winning the war on drugs" is a tactic that focused on THE WRONG PROBLEM AND THE WRONG PEOPLE....and everyone commenting here recognizes it for what it is.

    4. Seriously, whatever happened to real journalism and real journalists? How about doing the work to put this story in context....If you want a Pulitzer prize, you can't get one by singing the same childish song that the "authorities" want to have you sing. Do the work. Sing your own song. Examine the "War on Drugs" in the context of money spent versus results obtained...and include the statistics about the cost of imprisoning millions of people for smoking marijuana. Do something real.

    February 16, 2010 at 11:55 am |
  48. Rich

    This is a rediculous story. Drug cartels, with their billions of dollars, can steal anything or kill anybody they want. Why would they go through the charade of buying legal guns in the US and then smuggle them into Mexico.

    This makes no sense at all and sounds bogus.

    February 16, 2010 at 11:45 am |
  49. David Vance

    Cost of 340 9mm Beretta pistols bought in the US $214200.00 w/tax
    Kickback to buyers @ $200.00 per gun $68000.00
    Total before paying smugglers to take weapons across the border $282200.00.
    Cost of replacing just one shipment captured by the ATF or border patrol $564400.00
    Sloppy reporting – PRICELESS!
    As stated in previous comments, drug smuggling is a business whose goal is to make money. There are much cheaper and less risky ways to get fire arms into any South American country. But if there is a real concern about smuggling perhaps instead of wasting time and money on more useless firearms laws and the bureaucracy to enforce them we could spend it to secure the border. Just a thought.

    February 16, 2010 at 10:21 am |
  50. matt

    most of the guns are made in the u.s., but are sold to mexican police/military... then they find their way to cartels.

    hence "Most Guns in Cartel Hands come From U.S.:... its not billy bob buying a dozen m16s and making money by smuggling...

    February 16, 2010 at 10:11 am |
  51. Mitchell

    CNN once again you are acting as the anti-gun crowds willing point man. From reading the above blogs it seems that your anti-gun scripted presentation is very transparant.

    February 16, 2010 at 9:44 am |
  52. MD

    God bless the U.S.' 2nd Amendment which entitles every idiot to buy guns in the Land Of The Free.

    Almost every US-American is keen to preserve this acient and completly irrational and emotional bill but then they are suprised and outraged if criminals make use of it?

    I share absolutely no pity whatsoever for you folks if such things happen as long as your consitution is a out-dated piece of cowboy-ish ideology

    February 16, 2010 at 9:30 am |
  53. Herman

    Anyone can get guns illegal or legal. Without guns you'll still have drug killings. Making something illegal does not stop it from happening, it just increases the price. Look at history a lot of rich families (Kennedy,s etc) got their wealth from alcohol sales when it was illegal. You can't legalize drugs, there's to much stealing today due to them. They could put chemicals in captured drugs that would make you sick and put them back on the street, it wouldn't take long for drug sales from Mexico to decrease. To many people are making money from drug sales, Law and Government officials, for anyone to seriously try to stop it.

    February 16, 2010 at 9:26 am |
  54. JAR

    I just saw a different report of yours about a person buying a gun in GA. CNN went out of it's way to underline the fact that this gentleman was "a legal Russian immigrant". I assume next time you report anything about Arnold Schwarzenegger you will refer to him as "a legal Austrian immigrant," won't you? Or perhaps introduce the CNN morning team as John Roberts, legal Canadian immigrant or Kiran Chetry, legal Nepal immigrant.

    But the most moronic and irresponsible part of your reporting was showing the gentleman buying the gun and giving his reason on camera for doing so. He fears for his life – and its not up to you to judge why he does. So now whoever he fears knows that 1. he has a gun and 2. he left NY and was seen in GA.

    There's a reason why the Fed is bound by law to destroy records of gun buyers after they have been cleared. You just went around that law and permanently recorded that this citizen's is now a gun owner. Lets just hope this gentleman is not harmed by your irresponsible reporting.

    February 16, 2010 at 9:16 am |
  55. David Palomares

    Sad isn't it you can get guns into Mexico with no problem okay buts lets go back what about books Ed Lavandera did a piece on books stores closing in the Laredo area. Why doesn't Amazon donate Kindles to the some of the students that do well with good grade averages. Guns it's amazing that all this originates in the USA.
    As United States citizen living in Mexico I find it easier to find drugs 'pot' and guns down here then it is to find paper back books.
    I wish Ed Lavendera would do a follow up on the book stores closing and why it's so hard to get books down here. Did you know buy the time a paperback hits the shelves here usually just the top ten mass product sales it cost 170.00 pesos that's twice the dollar amount then it's worth.
    WTF I book does and goes further then a bullet in the head you think.

    February 16, 2010 at 8:54 am |
  56. Richard, Kankakee, IL.

    I still believe that we should all have the right to buy guns, just as long as the person does not have a criminal record, or is mentally ill. The problem with the illegal purchase of weapons is with the government, they are sloppy and because not all the states have the same rule to run by.

    February 16, 2010 at 8:35 am |
  57. Lee Denny

    I wrote a BLOG for the automotive industry for years. In it I often wrote about little reported Toyota product defects and cover ups. Toyota was recently investigated by the Japanese govrernment for covering up product defects. Several years ago they denied engine failures due to engine sludge, blaming the problem on poor maintenance, yet they lost a US class action law suit and were forced to replace the engines. They had trouble with the frames of Tacomma pickup trucks where the frames rusted through rendering the trucks not road worthy. They did not recall these vehicles, choosing to treat them as policy adjustments only when the consumer noticed the problem, thereby avoiding public admission of the issue. This is a trend with Toyota, and regretably the lack of media attention in years gone by has contributed to the failure of GM, costing hundreds of thousands of jobs and thousands of community car dealers their businesses and livelyhoods. Thankfully there was admission of this pass for Toyota by the media on CNN's "Reliable Sources". This cover up by Toyota does not rise to the level of Nixon, but Nixon's cover up did not kill people.

    February 16, 2010 at 7:25 am |
  58. jasperkasper

    Hmmm So the guns head south and north from the US.While I respect responsible and trained, certified, licensed gun owners with permits for conceal, I do not understand gun shop owners in states with flimsy laws able to sell indiscreminately in bulk to any Tom Dick or Harry and not have some responsibilty. Not our fault? BS.

    February 15, 2010 at 10:20 pm |
  59. bob b

    Guns in Mexico do not come from the US. They come from Central and South America through Russa, China, N Korea. US guns come at a premium price with much to much paperwork.

    February 15, 2010 at 10:07 pm |
  60. Patriot

    Now lets get this straight.... drug cartels with unlimited funds and resources buy guns a few at a time rather than deal with international arms dealers.

    Now if you bought that, they bring them across a heavily patrolled border instead of coming in from any other direaction.

    This whole article looks scripted.

    February 15, 2010 at 9:51 pm |
  61. jerry berkhouse

    hi, i agree ther has to be sometihing done about the illegal sales of guns ,so they don't fall into the wrong hands, but it has to be done so that it doesn't infringe on my right to keep and bear arms. bloomberg an peelosie are full of crap andshould leave us alone . i own my guns leagelly and have the proper permit. i an also a proud member of the NRA. there are some things that could be done to help curtail the problem without hurting us legal gunowners. 1. every handgun permit in the U.S. have a photo I.D. 2. only allow 2 guns to be bought at the same time unless the buyer has a FFL. now i should be able to buy more than that in a month if i want to. 3.Pennsylvania has some pretty good handgun laws,some states ought to look at them. i strongly believe that every American citizen that can legally own a firearm should belong to the NRA as they are the only ones standing up for our gun rights. 4 a law should be passed that if you fail to report a lost or stolen rifle or handgun ,you should face a stiff fine .well my NRA wouldn't agree with that one, but if we all agreed with everything ,,that would be awful boring.

    February 15, 2010 at 8:51 pm |
  62. GeoB

    So we are providing the Mexicans the guns to protect their drugs with, so that they can bring them to America and sell them to our kids and let them die? Screw them. They can continue to kill each other with "our" guns, why aren't we focused on our own issues? America is so eager to help other nations solve their issues with aid, volunteers, and millions if not billions of dollars that we will never recoup – why dont we focus on our selves for a change? Leave Mexico, Iran, Israel, Vietnam and everyone else alone and concentrate on ourselves. Why not spend the money on stopping the drugs coming into the country instead of trying to find the people sending guns out of the country. I'm willing to bet that half of the people are guilty of both issues. By default, stopping the drugs coming in will help eliminate a portion of the issues to our south. This would make their issues go elsewhere and other countries can worry about themselves, like they usually do. At last check, we had an economy that is the worst its been in our lifetime, so why no reinvest in ourselves? God Bless and Help the U.S.A.

    February 15, 2010 at 8:08 pm |
  63. RAM

    "People that are buying drugs in the United States have just as much blood on their hands as the people pulling the trigger in Mexico," says Agent Webb."

    That is a load of CRAP!
    The blood is on the hands of prohibitionists who cynically cling to a lost 'war on drugs' to justify huge police and security budgets.

    It is amazing to me that people in a country built on capitalism and the concept of risk/reward fail to come to grips with the fact that the more laws you pass, the more risk the traffickers take, the higher their rewards...and the more ruthless they will be to protect those rewards. And then they'll corrupt US!

    February 15, 2010 at 7:48 pm |
  64. admiral149

    Drug smugglers, murders, gun smugglers, and drug users, are all engaged in a criminal activity supporting one another. I am sure that they can get a much larger selection of exotic firearms in Central America where there will be no serial numbers or paper trail to follow the transaction. I have a novel idea, why not enforce the laws that we already have. It is obvious that criminals by definition will be criminals. Just don't trample on a U.S. citizen's right to self defense when all this crime is around us.

    February 15, 2010 at 7:38 pm |
  65. RSweeney

    I think the "no guns" signs (and laws) in Mexico work as well as the "drug free" signs (and laws) of the USA.

    Why not legalize drugs and just de-fund the criminals?

    It's pretty obvious that the current situation is the worst of both worlds, we have both drug abuse AND the violent crime and corruption to support it.

    Just who is kidding who about the possibility to legislate this problem away? It doesn't work ANYWHERE.

    February 15, 2010 at 6:37 pm |
  66. Steve

    Not only are those who deal in drugs and use them responsible for the deaths of many on both sides of the border, but so are those people who use our Bill of Rights inappropriately. There are some problems with are gun laws, and I am a Life member of the NRA. First is that only citizens of the United States should be allowed to purchase and own firearms. Second , anyone who commits a violent crime with a firearm be given the death penalty or life without parole. No 2nd chance. Third, anyone who sells or buys a firearm must have a background investigation and finger prints on file. Anyone who has possession of stolen firearms will lose the 2nd amendment right and serve 20 years. Fourth, abolish some of the 30,000 laws that restrict the 2nd amendment in most states.

    February 15, 2010 at 5:06 pm |
  67. Rolly Bones

    Until you take the profit away on our side of the border, it's not going to matter how much money is wasted on the bogus' War on Drugs'! Lawyers, Drugs, and Money are the big problem here. Lawyers make millions, the dealers make millions and the money will continue to flow to the wrong people while our government plays games with semantics and foolish pride. The amount of users will not change but the money would stay here rather than be flushed into oblivion by the dealers and their handlers!

    Rolly

    February 15, 2010 at 4:54 pm |
  68. Thomas

    The problem isn't GUN control, it is BORDER control. Well, it looks like gun control is working pretty well eh? When will people learn that gun control only makes it difficult for those following the law to buy guns? Perhaps the gun control advocates will remember to ask their next mugger, home invader, or carjacker if their firearm was legally purchased. 🙄

    February 15, 2010 at 4:51 pm |
  69. Jim

    sure, let's blame the inanimate object for all the problems. IT'S THE PEOPLE, NOT THE WEAPONS. The media needs to get back to reporting the facts without bias not this kind of crap

    February 15, 2010 at 4:30 pm |
  70. richp the poconos

    Being a gun owner and one who carries I and most of us belive any straw buyer should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
    I am puzzled however, it's much cheaper to buy full automatic weapons on the international open arms market for much less than they are paying for the full purchase price from a retail gun shop then add in the $100-200 commission for each and it makes no economic sense and no matter how you slice it the drug cartels are a business not to mention that the firearm now has to be smuggled over the border. A semi auto AR15 that the media likes to classify as an assault weapon costs upwards of $800 while a FULL AUTO AK or AKS costs less than $200 on the open market. Money wise it's rather stupid on their part.

    February 15, 2010 at 4:19 pm |
  71. sam

    This story makes no sense. I find it hard to believe that the drug cartels with all their millions of dollars and receiving protection from corrupt cops and military officials from Columbia to Mexico are purchasing guns in the United States. This is a big farce so this liberal administration can pass more gun laws to restrict gun ownership.

    February 15, 2010 at 4:01 pm |
  72. Kenneth S.

    Let me guess the ATF is gonna propse more restrictions on Gun purchases...against Law abiding citizens. LMAO( psst. here's a tip...law abiding citizens arent the ones selling Guns in Mexico!!) here's to the Gov. sticking it to the Little guy again. try enforceing the law in reverse. like giving longer sentences for crimes committed with U.S. Guns. Instead of trying to shaft the legal Gun Owners and buyers. I'm just saying...I've bought guns and had conclead carry permits in 3 states. I refuse to live in a state where citizens dont have the right to protect themselves. I suggest that if any new oppressive law is enacted that instead of taking up the rear like we always do. we Vote out anyone who supports such laws.

    February 15, 2010 at 4:00 pm |
  73. Steve

    Not only are those who deal in drugs and use them responsible for the deaths of many on both sides of the border, but so are those people who use our Bill of Rights inappropriately. There are some problems with are gun laws, and I am a Life member of the NRA. First is that only citizens of the United States should be allowed to purchase and own firearms. Second , anyone who commits a violent crime with a firearm be given the death penalty or life without parole. No 2nd chance. Third, anyone who sells or buys a firearm must have a background investigation and finger prints on file. Anyone who has possession of stolen firearms will lose the 2nd amendment right and serve 20 years. Fourth, abolish some of the 30,000 laws that restrict the 2nd amendment in most states.

    February 15, 2010 at 3:21 pm |
  74. boondoggie

    I know it is tough to stop gun traffic, if the feds and local gov't stopped squeezing the low income individuals out of their hard earned money they would not be tempted to purchase weapons for the cartels.
    I will kewep my right to bear arms to protect my family and property.
    Lets go for real education and not hysteria please.
    Thanks fberry

    February 15, 2010 at 2:20 pm |
  75. John

    Just another propagana piece blaming America's freedom for Mexico's crime. Many other articles state that the Mexican gangs have rockets, grenades and fully automatic machineguns. None of those can be legally bought in the US without very lengthy background checks and taxes and almost certainly did not come from the US. If they can those, they can get rifles and pistols from other sources as well.

    February 15, 2010 at 2:09 pm |
  76. Brian

    I don't know any "regular guys" who sell guns in bulk to drug cartels.

    February 15, 2010 at 12:52 pm |