Note: Not all the ammo is going to drug gangs, as pointed out in
AZMEX 5-10-11. Mexican municipal police are severely under equipped
and under supplied. The police force in Altar, Son. is just a recent
Another question to be answered is how much U.S. manufactured
ammunition is exported to Mexico by U.S govt? Along with the
thousands of weapons? Not to forget the continual "leakage" from the
Mexican govt. If memory serves, about 3 million "items" in last
A tech note on this one, over the last two / three years, have seen
5.7x28 and .38 Super ammo gathering dust on the shelves throughout AZ.
U.S. border with Mexico gateway for cartels' ammo
Ammo legally bought in U.S., Arizona is sneaked across border to aid
by Robert Anglen - Oct. 9, 2011 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic
Ammo seizures chart
Every year, thousands of guns are smuggled into Mexico from the
United States, fueling the brutal drug-cartel wars and stirring
outrage on both sides of the border.
But often overlooked in the controversy are the tons of bullets that
also make their way south of the border.
In Mexico, ammunition is strictly regulated and possession of even a
single illegal round can lead to prison. But there is nonetheless a
steady supply of bullets. Almost all of it comes from the north.
Hundreds of thousands of rounds of ammunition are purchased each year
from online retailers, big-box stores and at gun shows in Arizona and
other Southwest border states, then are smuggled across the border.
"It's all coming from the U.S.," said Jose Wall, senior trafficking
agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in
Phoenix. "I can't remember where I've seen ammunition from anywhere
but the U.S."
Bullets are smuggled through border checkpoints at the bottoms of
grocery bags. They are hidden by the box in the backs of cars and
stashed by the case in cargo haulers, according to federal court
records and interviews with law-enforcement officers.
And like the methods used, there is no typical smuggler. Some work
closely with drug cartels; others are ordinary U.S. citizens
recruited by cartel operatives to smuggle bullets across for extra
cash. Some smugglers are illegal immigrants; others are Mexican
citizens with tourist visas who buy ammunition and carry it across
"We have juveniles all the way up to individuals 85 years of age,"
said Joe Agosttini, assistant port director in Nogales.
Over the past five years, seizures of ammunition at Arizona's six
ports of entry along the Mexican border have risen steeply, from 760
rounds in fiscal 2007 to 95,416 in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.
That reflects both a stepped-up effort by U.S. Customs and Border
Protection to check southbound vehicles for guns and bullets and a
rising demand for ammo by drug cartels. The levels of violence have
accelerated in recent years with the Mexican government waging war
against cartels and inter-cartel battles intensifying over
Drug violence has claimed more than 35,000 lives across Mexico since
2006, according to government figures. Other estimates put the toll
at more than 40,000.
For every gun and bullet confiscated, cartels must find a
replacement, federal officials said.
"If they can't arm their hit men, they are sitting ducks," Wall said.
One factor that enables the smuggling is the relative ease with which
bullets can be bought in the United States. There are few
restrictions on the number of rounds someone can buy.
In one ongoing federal case, three Tucson residents are accused of
purchasing as many as 250,000 rounds of ammunition online that
officials say were smuggled into Mexico. In another case, federal
officials searched a Tucson home and turned up 20,000 rounds plus
receipts showing a man purchased "large quantities of ammunition on a
weekly basis," according to an indictment.
"Meet the nefarious gun trafficker's ugly sister - the ammo
trafficker," then-U.S. Attorney for Arizona Dennis Burke said in a
statement earlier this year after a grand jury indicted suspects in
an ammunition-smuggling case.
"Driven by unfettered greed, liberal purchasing accessibility and
border proximity, the ammo traffickers for drug cartels are
flourishing in Arizona."
Easy to buy in U.S.
According to law-enforcement agents, the cross-border trafficking is
all about supply and demand. Mexican drug lords demand bullets, and
the United States has vast supplies of ammunition.
"Fifty rounds might cost you 15 bucks here," ATF Agent Wall said.
"But sell them in Mexico, I'll bet you can make $45."
In Mexico, there is only one gun store, and it is controlled by the
Mexican Army. The store, called Directorate of Arms and Munitions
Sales, is in Mexico City.
Gun owners must get government permits to buy weapons and can't own a
rifle or handgun more powerful than a .380-caliber.
Ammunition sales are allowed only at select stores and gun clubs.
The penalty for possessing even one illegal bullet in Mexico can be
severe, including prison time.
In contrast, though ammunition exports are regulated, few
restrictions exist for buying ammunition in the U.S. Laws that once
treated ammunition sales as rigorously as gun sales were repealed in
1986 and have not been re-enacted.
According to the San Francisco-based Legal Community Against
Violence, a public-interest law center that seeks to prevent gun
violence, the 1968 Federal Gun Control Act required sellers of
ammunition to be licensed and to maintain a log of all ammunition
sales. That ended with the 1986 Firearms Owners Protection Act.
Under current federal law, buyers must be U.S. citizens and have no
felony convictions. Anyone over 18 can buy rifle ammunition, and
anyone over 21 can buy handgun ammo. But the decision to sell 10, 100
or even 10,000 rounds of ammunition is left up to the individual
retailer. Unlike with multiple handgun and rifle purchases, sellers
don't have to record the transaction or report the buyer to
authorities under federal law.
Some counties and states go further and limit the types of ammunition
that can be sold, have recording requirements or regulate mail-order
A 2007 study by the Legal Community Against Violence found that only
five states required licenses for ammunition sellers and only four
required a license to purchase or possess ammunition. A few states
restricted where ammunition can be carried, and 32 states regulated
certain types of ammunition considered especially dangerous.
Since the report, California and some other states have tightened
ammunition laws. California legislators are pushing new laws in
response to a judge's ruling in January that struck down a 2009
ammunition law that required, among other things, that handgun
ammunition sellers keep information about buyers and all handgun
bullet sales be completed face to face.
Arizona is not among the states with any of those laws. The state
does prohibit someone from giving or selling ammunition to a person
younger than 18 without written consent of the minor's parent.
Gun dealers say there is no reason to implement such laws. They say
most buyers have legitimate reasons for buying ammunition in bulk,
including firearms instructors and sports enthusiasts taking
advantage of discount prices.
"I don't see anything wrong with it," said Don Gallardo, manager of
Shooter's World in Phoenix. "Should we restrict someone from buying
10 cases of beer versus one case of beer?"
According to federal authorities, the lack of restrictions has turned
Arizona into an ammunition warehouse for Mexican drug lords, who only
have to find ways to get it across the border.
The operations that deliver bullets into the turmoil of Mexico's drug
war are not complex.
Take, for example, a 2010 Tucson case that began when delivery-truck
drivers got suspicious.
A delivery truck for a national shipper regularly dropped off
packages at a nondescript apartment in central Tucson. It happened so
often, and the packages were so heavy, that the driver complained.
The tip was passed along to federal officials.
According to the indictment, ATF agents monitored an April delivery,
which came from an online Ohio-based company called aimsurplus.com,
to the apartment on east Fifth Street.
The packages contained 4,000 rounds of .223 ammunition typically used
in military AR-15 assault rifles, and 10,000 rounds of 7.62x39 mm
ammunition, which is used in the AK-47 type assault rifles favored by
drug cartels. Agents said two of the suspects, Emmanuel Vasquez and
Charice Gaede, took the bullets from the apartment to a house they
Two months later, in June, agents watched as a Ford Aerostar van with
a Sonora license plate backed into the garage of the house; the
agents then followed as it headed for Nogales.
Less than a mile from the Mariposa border crossing, the van broke
down. The driver pushed it into a parking area less than 100 feet
from the crossing.
Later that day, federal law-enforcement agents searched the van and
reported finding two hidden compartments with a cache of 9,500
rounds. Agents also searched the Tucson house and found 20,000 rounds
and receipts for earlier purchases of hundreds of thousands of
Vasquez, Gaede and Elias Vasquez were charged with illegally
exporting ammunition. Emmanuel Vasquez and Gaede also were charged
with possession of an unregistered firearm discovered in the search
of their home. All three suspects pleaded not guilty.
Aimsurplus.com did not return calls.
Key smuggling route
Customs and Border Protection agents in Nogales are especially
vigilant because the city is located on a key smuggling route; it
connects directly to Highway 15, a main thoroughfare that runs all
the way to Mexico City.
Agosttini said U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents began
concentrating on guns and ammunition about two years ago, leading to
a meteoric rise in the number of seizures.
He said before 2009, agents relied on a method called "pulse and
surge," which means they ran searches for a limited number of hours
at various entry points. Now, in Nogales, searches are done 24 hours
a day, seven days a week at the Dennis DeConcini Port of Entry and 16
hours a day at the Mariposa Port of Entry.
Agents may notice an anomaly in the design of the car or a suspicious
gesture or odd answer to a question that leads to a search and
Two teenagers driving a fully loaded minivan last year triggered one
such search last year. Officers reported finding 11,843 rounds of
AK-47 type ammunition and 43 semiautomatic handgun magazines inside.
The two 19-year-old suspects, one a U.S. citizen, the other an
undocumented immigrant, were arrested and charged with smuggling.
Court documents show that neither of the two had a criminal record.
"What we have here are two 19-year-olds, you know, dumb kids is what
it all comes down to," Tucson defense attorney Maria Davila said
during a sentencing hearing in May.
Davila said the pair were playing soccer with friends when someone
approached them and offered to pay them to drive a van, owned by one
of the teens, south across the border.
One of the suspects, Francisco Beltran-Rios of Mexico, told a federal
judge that they really didn't know what kind of ammunition or how
much they were carrying. The teenagers' job was to drive the van to
Agua Prieta, Mexico. They were stopped at the Nogales crossing.
In the federal courtroom, Beltran-Rios said he suspected that the
ammunition would likely lead to deaths. "But I never really thought
about the consequences or what would happen to me," he said.
And how much was he going to get paid? Judge Raner Collins asked.
Beltran-Rios answered, "$250."
Collins sentenced him to 21 months in prison and cautioned that if he
returned to the United States illegally again, he would face 20 years
"I promise you that I will never return again," Beltran-Rios said.
Close to the border
Only a few hundred feet from the border fence, tucked into the
teeming shopping district of North Morley Avenue, is a store called
With its camouflage exterior and pictures of armed men in the
windows, the store stands out among the discount clothing and
electronic stores. It is one of the few stores to openly sell
ammunition so close to Mexico.
Inside, racks of merchandise offer boots and belts, sunglasses and
holsters. Knives are kept in display cases; bullets are kept in back.
The store manager, who refused to give his name, said the store sells
a limited amount of handgun ammunition.
But he was quick to point out that any attempt to walk it across the
border would be foolhardy.
"Just one bullet will get you arrested," he said brusquely, pointing
toward uniformed border agents sitting outside the entry port. "It's
worse than buying a gun right now."
Note: At 09:22 AZ time the link has stopped working
See webpage for the chart
Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/
Note: BTW, we do pay taxes on ammunition, both sales and excise,
excise currently at 11%.
In the past ammunition restrictions have targeted U.S citizens. Many
citizens and completive shooters do by ammunition and components in
bulk, as like all commodities, less expensive that way. If all
else fails, secure the border?
(rant follows) In Mesa, AZ, besides the fed. excise tax of 11% on
ammunition, there is also the sales tax of 9.05%. Then add to that
the obama supply and demand tax and inflation, resulting in effective
prices about doubled since 2008.
Regulating ammunition in the U.S.
No major efforts are under way in Congress or in Arizona to enact
more controls on the sales or possession of ammunition, federal
officials and interested groups say.
In 2008, several Democratic members of the Arizona House introduced a
bill that would have created a database to track manufacturers,
retailers, purchasers and the ammunition itself. Only law-enforcement
personnel would have had access. The bill, also introduced in other
states, would have imposed a half-cent-per-dollar tax on each
cartridge sold to pay for the system. The measure died in committee.
In Congress, no recent bills have been introduced related to
ammunition, according to OpenCongress, a nonpartisan, non-profit
group that tracks legislation.
After the mass shooting near Tucson on Jan. 8, in which U.S. Rep.
Gabrielle Giffords was wounded, a bill was introduced in Congress to
ban large-capacity magazines holding more than 10 rounds. The bill
remains in the House Judiciary Committee. Magazines are often
smuggled into Mexico along with ammunition and guns.
- Republic staff
Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/