Plan to Stop Flow of Guns into Mexico Will ‘Respect’ 2nd Amendment Rights, DHS Official Says

By Penny Starr | April 21, 2009 | 6:50 PM EDT

John Leech, acting director of the Office of Counternarcotics Enforcement with the Department of Homeland Security, testified about a new strategy for the Southwest Border, set to be made public in the coming weeks. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

(CNSNews.com) - John Leech, the man who oversees U.S. efforts to stop the flow of illegal drugs into the United States, said the government also plans to stop the flow of guns into Mexico – while respecting the Second Amendment.  

Leech, the acting director of the Office of Counternarcotics Enforcement for the Department of Homeland Security, testified about the government’s 2009 strategy for the southwest border before a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday.
 
“We’ve actually produced an arms chapter, and I think you will be very proud of what the United States of America has put in this document in terms of trying to get control of the arms problem,” Leech said of the new strategy report, which is scheduled to be released in the next few weeks.
 
Leech said the new strategy will “really address the [gun] issue with tremendous respect for the Second Amendment and the rights of every American citizen.”
 
The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
 
Leech could not, however, answer the question posed by the subcommittee chairman, Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), as to whether the guns getting to Mexico were obtained legally or illegally.

Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) is chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on State, Local and Private Sector Preparedness and Integration, which heard testimony on Tuesday about efforts to fight drug trafficking and gun running by local, state and federal law enforcement. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

“I’m not an expert on that,” Leech said, adding that he would try to find the answer to the question and get back to the subcommittee.
 
Asked about reports that 90 percent of guns confiscated in Mexico came from the United States, Leech said he is not sure if those reports are accurate. Some media reports place the number at 17 percent, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has confirmed that it is not certain how many U.S. guns end up in the hands of Mexican drug cartels. 
 
“Is it your impression – and I know you’re not an expert on this, or maybe you can tell me what you know or get back to us – is it your impression that most of these guns going into Mexico are from the United States?” asked Pryor. “Or is it your impression, maybe what Sen. [John] Ensign (R-Nev.) alluded to, it’s really only a portion of the guns?”
 
“Sir, I’m not an expert,” said Leech. “I’ve seen what appears to be valid arguments on both sides. I’ve seen arguments for the straight 90 percent. And I’ve seen arguments that the 90 percent represents only a small percentage (of confiscated guns).”
 
Leech cited 2007 statistics showing that of the approximately 15,000 guns seized by Mexican authorities in drug operations, only 6,000 were traceable to the United States. Many of the confiscated guns are not traceable.

Leech will be replaced when President Barack Obama appoints (and Congress approves) a new director of DHS's Office of Counternarcotics Enforcement .
 
Pryor was the sole subcommittee member present for the entire 90-minute hearing, with ranking member Ensign attending a portion of the hearing. Freshman Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) was present for several minutes.
 
The two other witnesses at the hearing were Frances Flener, Arkansas State drug czar, and Sheriff Douglas Gillespie, head of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.

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