Opinion

Commentary: Mexico needs U.S. help to track weapons

Ever since it became clear that U.S. gun shops are major suppliers of weapons used by drug traffickers in Mexico, this country has had an obligation to help stop the slaughter south of the border.

So far, however, the federal government has failed to make a dent in this destructive traffic. An early Obama administration initiative, known as Operation Fast and Furious, was widely ridiculed for giving agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives permission to allow drug cartel associates to buy weapons and smuggle them across the border in an attempt to gather evidence on Mexican kingpins. The program was shut down after it came to light.

Now the AFT has come up with a better idea — to require gun dealers in four border states to notify federal authorities about individuals making frequent purchases of high-powered weapons. The gun lobby has responded furiously, claiming it’s just one more effort to restrict the rights of gun owners, and a majority on the House Appropriation Committee, including U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Miami, voted earlier this month to block funding for the program.

That’s wrong. Lawmakers can’t pretend the United States is not part of the problem. Even some gun shop owners in Texas have said the program makes sense. Yes, it will require more paperwork — the government says the rule could generate about 18,000 reports a year — but it’s worth a try if it helps this country to stop enabling murder and mayhem in Mexico.

The rest of Congress should refuse to go along with the House committee’s action.

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