The U.S.-Mexico border is one of the world's most violent places, and much of that violence is thanks to guns manufactured in the United States. Forty-two thousand people have been killed since Mexican President Felipe Calderón declared war on the drug cartels in 2006. Mexican consumers are not allowed to buy military-style assault weapons, like the AK-47, yet many are murdered by them. The failures of Operation Fast and Furious, an investigation by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), illustrated just that. The ATF was looking into an Arizona gun-trafficking ring, linked to drug cartels in Mexico. Yet during this particular operation, U.S. investigators lost track of many of the roughly 2,000 guns linked to the Arizona ring. On Tuesday, Aug. 30, two top U.S. Justice Department officials, including the head of the ATF, were fired, thanks in part to Operation Fast and Furious.
But despite policy changes and bureaucratic shuffling, the guns remain, on both sides of the border, fueling the fight between governments and drug cartels.
Above, U.S. Army National Guardsman Spc. Bernard Mendoza watches for illegal immigrants and drug smugglers crossing the U.S.-Mexico border on June 22, 2011, in Nogales, Arizona.