The high-powered guns used in both incidents on the evening of Sept. 24 undoubtedly came from the United States, say police here, who estimate that 100 percent of drug-related killings are committed with smuggled U.S. weapons.
The guns pass into Mexico through the "ant trail," the nickname for the steady stream of people who each slip two or three weapons across the border every day. The "ants" -- along with larger smuggling operations -- are feeding a rapidly expanding arms race between Mexican drug cartels.
The U.S. weapons -- as many as 2,000 enter Mexico each day, according to a Mexican government study -- are crucial tools in an astoundingly barbaric war between rival cartels that has cost 4,000 lives in the past 18 months and sent law enforcement agencies in Washington and Mexico City into crisis mode.
Corrupt customs officials help smuggle weapons into Mexico, earning as much as $1 million for large shipments, police here say. The weapons are often bought legally at gun shows in Arizona and other border states where loopholes allow criminals to stock up without background checks.
...law enforcement officers on both sides of the border have never seen anything like the flood of guns now surging into Mexico. The increase has been stoked by the cartel war and by the ease of buying high-powered weapons since the U.S. assault weapons ban was not renewed in 2004, William Newell, a special agent in charge of the ATF's Phoenix office, said in an interview.
Arizona and Texas have become a "gunrunner's paradise," according to Garen Wintemute, a professor at the University of California at Davis who published a study on gun buying in the Southwest. Licensed dealers must conduct background checks, but unlicensed sellers can sell "personal collections" at weekend gun shows without background checks.
Laws on personal collections were established to allow people such as the widows of avid gun collectors to make sales without having to go through an elaborate licensing procedure. But unscrupulous sellers and buyers have taken advantage of the system, Newell said, setting up phony personal collections booths and making quick sales that are difficult to trace.
"It can take less than a minute," said Wintemute, who has watched unlicensed dealers wearing sandwich boards at gun shows and piling weapons for sale into baby carriages.
If you don't have a problem with the U.S. being the number 1 source for guns in a drug war killing hundreds a month, then there's something wrong with you. Whatever your beliefs about the Second Amendment may be, I'm pretty sure the Framers didn't have in mind that it would be used as a justification for gun dealers to enrich themselves by supplying weapons to all sides in what is practically a civil war. But we can't energize Congress to change gun laws after American students are mowed down in classrooms, so I suppose I shouldn't hold my breath for them to express a small amount of concern over the number of Mexicans being killed by our guns.