A weapon seized after a drug-war massacre last week at a Mexican border town was sold in Phoenix, says the Arizona Republic, which called it another sign that gunrunning and the firepower of drug cartels have accelerated in the last few months. “There is a war going on on the border between two cartels. What do they need to fight that war? Guns. Where do they get them? From here,” said William Newell, agent in charge of the Phoenix division of Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Last week, 22 people died near the Sonora mining town of Cananea. Drug smugglers executed four police, fled into the mountains, and shot it out with Mexican federal authorities in an ensuing daylong battle. Newell expects the investigation to show that more weapons in the attack were sold in Arizona.
The violence, and fear that it will spill more onto U.S. soil, has led ATF to make curbing gun running in the southwest a top priority. “With the new administration in Mexico, we have a level of cooperation I have never seen before,” Newell said. Often guns smuggled south are used to smuggle drugs and people north. “If that gun ends up in Mexico, it comes right back to you,” Newell said. “It’s a significant problem.” Cartel operatives flood Arizona to buy semi-automatic assault rifles, grenades, plastic explosives, and rocket launchers in bulk. “These are the same weapons you see on the battlefields of Iraq,” ATF agent Tom Mangan said.