(CNSNews.com) – D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) told members of the Obama administration that the United States is responsible for arming Mexican drug cartels and she was embarrassed that Mexico is not angry about it.
“It’s extremely embarrassing that Mexico has been as kind to us,” Norton said Thursday at a hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. “I would have been very, very angry at the Big Kahuna in the north that was essentially shipping down arms to kill my people.”
Kahuna is a Hawaiian word meaning priest, sorcerer, wizard, or minister, and Mexican officials say that 5,630 people died in Mexico from drug cartel-related violence in 2008.
Norton directed her remarks to Lanny Breuer, assistant attorney general of the criminal division within the Justice Department, one of three witnesses at the hearing about the Mexican drug cartels’ threat to U.S. national security.
“Where do these guns come from?” Norton said. “How are they able to pick them up in such large numbers? How are they able to get out what amounts to enough guns to arm a virtual small army?
“You know exactly where they came from, Mr. Breuer,” Norton said. “So, it looks like, all you have to do is get some guns, and you’ll get them across the border very easily, and nobody in the United States is doing very much to keep thugs from acquiring those guns in the first place.”
“Well, Congresswoman, I share your concern,” Breuer said. “I’d like to start by saying that there are people working very hard; our ATF [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives] agents are doing an extraordinary job with their resources.”
“Who is selling the guns?” Norton said. “Where are the guns coming from?”
“I think they are coming from a lot of places,” Breuer said. “I think they are coming from licensed firearms dealers where you have store purchases.”
“The power of these cartels is extraordinary and, as you know, their reach is great, so we have to dismantle those cartels,” Breuer said.
At the hearing, witnesses on the first panel mostly spoke about the dangers of the drug cartels and the Obama administration’s efforts to stop the flow of drugs into the United States and the flow of cash and guns into Mexico.
Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) asked the panel – which included Breuer; Alan Bersin, assistant secretary, office of international affairs and special representative for Border Affairs with the Department of Homeland Security; and R. Gil Kerlikowske, director of the National Drug Control Policy – about the number of guns allegedly confiscated by Mexican authorities and traced back to the United States.
“We often hear this figure that 90 percent of the guns confiscated in this conflict come from the United States,” Quigley said. “Given that we’re not necessarily tracing all those guns … how are we determining that figure?”
“I think, Congressman, that the precise number might be a little bit hard to get … of course, you are absolutely right, that most guns recovered at which point are traced back, I think what you’ve identified is the number that’s been said,” Breuer said. “I think that’s right.”
“I think the larger issue is this one,” Breuer said. “It’s inescapable that a very large percentage of the guns that are in Mexico today do in fact come from the United States.”
“Why aren’t more guns traced?” Quigley said. “Is it just that some of them aren’t traceable or is it the volume makes it difficult for them to be traced?”
When told by the panel that the ATF might have a better answer, Quigley finished his time for questioning the witnesses by proposing a Clinton-era ban on guns.
“I suppose it would be easier to control them if we did what the Clinton administration did and ban semi-automatic weapons,” Quigley said. “It’s a lot easier to control them if they are not being sold.”
As CNSNews.com reported earlier, less than 24 percent of the guns seized last year by Mexican authorities, mostly from drug trafficking organizations, were traced back to the United States, according to data in a report by the Government Accountability Office.
Of the 30,000 guns seized by Mexican authorities in 2008, only 7,200, or approximately 24 percent, were submitted to the U.S. for tracing. Of those 7,200 firearms, 6,700 (or about 22 percent) were actually determined to have originated in the United States.
The country of origin for the remaining 22,800 guns seized by Mexico that were not traced cannot be confirmed.
By the time the second panel was seated at the hearing – which was in recess for more than two hours for voting – only two members of the 39-member committee were in attendance: Chairman Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) and ranking minority member Darrell Issa (R-Calif.).