Houston is epicenter of illegal gun trade

June 9, 2008 4:46:48 PM PDT
Stockpiles of deadly weapons and ammunition are making their way back and forth across the border and are being used to kill. On Monday, immigration officials took a big step in getting hold of a problem that's swinging out of control. Dangerous weapons are in the hands of dangerous criminals. Immigration authorities say Texas is Mexico's biggest supplier of smuggled weapons. And they've announced a crackdown to get the guns before they turn into murder weapons.

They are powerful and deadly high-caliber weapons smuggled into Mexico from the United States. Chances are many come from right here in the Bayou City.

"Houston is actually the number 1 city in the United States and in Texas for weapons being recovered in Mexico," said ATF Special Agent in Charge Dewey Webb.

Authorities say Houston has become the epicenter of the illegal gun trade, fueled in part by its proximity to Mexico and its availability of weapons.

"The drug cartels have infrastructure here. They have people here who can go out and buy the guns for them and they can use those people," said Webb.

As we've seen in recent months, many of those weapons have been used to carry out brutal murders, not only against law enforcement officers, but against innocent people.

"They're doing it to support other types of criminal activities," said Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security Julie Myers.

It's that premise which is behind Armas Cruzadas, a joint effort between the U.S. and Mexico, working together not only to track down those who run the guns, but those who buy them.

"We established a task force at the border and we are working very closely with them," said Mexico Customs Director Juan Jose Bravo Moses.

The effort includes several key pieces, including a stronger prosecution arm in Mexico along with better information sharing.

"They are responding with increased activity and increased violence and that, in turn, means we need to be as responsible as we can," said Myers.

We're told this program actually began in April and so far, officials say it has worked out well.

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