Here is an excerpt from Tim Gaynor's article on Reuters.com:
"An Arizona judge threw out criminal charges on Wednesday against a gun dealer accused of knowingly selling weapons to smugglers shopping for Mexican drug cartels, after he ruled the prosecutor's evidence was flawed. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Robert Gottsfield issued a directed verdict of not guilty in the trial of George Iknadosian [pictured left], 47, the owner of X-Caliber guns in Phoenix. Prosecutors alleged Iknadosian sold hundreds of AK-47 assault rifles and other guns to third-party buyers for the cartels in Mexico, where 6,000 people were killed in drug violence last year. The case was the most significant to date brought by U.S. prosecutors seeking to curb the illegal flow of arms south of the border. Gottsfield dismissed the case on the grounds that the prosecutors had not proven the third-party buyers, or "straw purchasers," had misrepresented their identities when buying the guns." Link to Full Article
Analysis: As infuriating as he verdict must have been for investigators and prosecutors, the sad fact is that the system DTOs and strawmen use for purchasing guns and smuggling them into Mexico is a good one - for them, of course. One real problem that is probably going to emerge from this (actually, it's been a point of contention for a while when discussing the southbound flow of weapons) is the debate over gun laws. Some feel that gun bans and tighter gun laws would ameliorate the weapons trafficking issue. Others would rather see Mexico burn to the ground before they'd give up their guns or the right to purchase and own them.
The problem is NOT gun laws. The problem is the shortage of manpower in law enforcement agencies dedicated to investigating crimes involving guns. The strawmen that buy guns destined for Mexico, in many cases, purchase the guns legally. This means they (or the identity they portray) have a clean background, no criminal history, and are a resident of the state where they purchase the gun. This profile is identical to those of thousands of honest citizens who purchase guns every day for hunting or home protection or other legal uses. The difference is that strawmen KNOW the guns are being sent to Mexico and they lie about it. This is a criminal offense, and so is selling a gun to an individual when the seller KNOWS the guns are intended for that purpose. Proving in a court of law that a gun dealer KNEW for a fact that he or she was selling guns to a straw purchaser, as evidenced by this case, is difficult at best.
So, if the gun purchases themselves are often legal, how do you mitigate the problem? Short of banning the sale of ALL guns - which will never happen - investigation and prosecution after the purchase occurs appears to be the only feasible answer. However, that answer has its own challenges. Law enforcement on the US side or the border needs more funding and more manpower to start making a dent in the investigative process. Mexican law enforcement is dealing with serious corruption issues that prevent an accurate portrayal of the problem, mostly because the corruption affects what weapons are seized and traced in Mexico. Current proposals for US legislation aimed at stemming the southbound flow of weapons indicates the US Government understands how serious the problem is and the assistance that law enforcement agencies along the border require. Hopefully assistance in the form of funding and manpower will manifest itself sooner rather than later.