More than 50 U.S. lawmakers sent a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to enforce a ban on importing assault weapons, saying many such guns are later smuggled south to arm Mexico’s ruthless drug cartels.
“They come to the United States from Europe and other places, and they make their way down to Mexico,” Rep. Eliot Engel, a New York Democrat, told reporters in Mexico City on Wednesday.
The ban was implemented under the administrations of President George H.W. Bush and President Bill Clinton, and the U.S. government can enforce it under provisions of the 1968 Gun Control Act.
But the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or ATF, has quietly abandoned the ban in recent years, the lawmakers said in their letter. The ATF declined to comment.
“As a result, the civilian firearms market is flooded with imported, inexpensive military-style assault weapons from primarily former Eastern bloc countries including Romania, Bulgaria and the former Yugoslavia,” the letter said.
All 53 lawmakers who signed were Democrats.