Gunrunning from the U.S. to Mexico is in the headlines, but the parallel flow of ammunition across the border is proving to be more difficult to stop, the Wall Street Journal reports. In a series of arrests this year, U.S. agents in New Mexico and Texas seized hundreds of thousands of rounds bound for the border—many of them bullets for the AK-47 and M16 assault rifles favored by Mexican drug cartels.
Bullets are much easier to buy, hide, and smuggle than guns, and federal and state laws require relatively little tracking of their sales. That makes ammunition smugglers difficult to catch. Such cases also get little publicity compared to gun trafficking. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives have been trying to crack down on ammunition smuggling with operations that include elaborate undercover investigations as well as routine border stops. In some cases the agencies work with state and local authorities. “The bottom line is a gun is worthless if you don’t have a bullet to put in,” said Jerry Robinette, a federal Homeland Security investigator in San Antonio.