The Illegal and Legal Blur in US-Mexico Arms Trafficking

An illegal immigrant from Mexico was charged in Texas with attempting to purchase an M-203 grenade launcher and three AK-47s. The M-203 is a U.S. military single shot 40mm grenade launcher designed to be attached to the M16 and M4 carbine.


According to the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives, on February 7th ATF agents arrested Oscar Fredy Garcia (31) near Los Fresnos, Texas, as a result of a sting operation. Undercover ATF agents initially met with Garcia the day before, when he made a $300 down payment on a $5,000 deal for the weapons. He agreed to meet the next day to take possession and was arrested in Los Fresnos.  

Garcia subsequently told agents he was making the purchase for an Oscar Garcia Mendez. Details of the intended use of the weapons were not reported, though it is speculated they were destined to be smuggled into Mexico.  

Garcia went before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald Morgan, where he was charged with one count of conspiring to commit an offense against the U.S. The court further ordered Garcia to be held without bond due to his immigration status and flight risk. Garcia had one prior arrest in June 2015 near Roma, Texas, for illegally entering the U.S. At that time he pleaded guilty, served 30 days and was deported to Mexico.  

ATF also arrested Dulce Maria Rippstine (36) from San Juan, Texas, and Juan Martin Segura (56), an illegal immigrant from Mexico, in a separate but apparently related case. The pair had other unnamed individuals acquire various weapons for them, including assault rifles, with the intent of smuggling them into Mexico.  


ATF confirmed that a criminal complaint was filed against Mendez who had purchased at least one AK-47 from a gun store in Brownsville and turned it over to Rippstine and an accomplice named Olvera. The AK-47 purchase by Mendez, which under normal circumstances would have been legal, became a criminal offense when he lied on the federal form that he was buying it for his own use but was in fact a straw purchaser. Mendez was charged with one count of straw purchasing.  

ATF estimates from 2009 to 2014, more than 73,000 guns that were seized in Mexico were traced to the U.S. ATF further states that number represents about 70 percent of the 104,850 firearms seized by Mexican authorities that were also submitted to the U.S. for tracing.

The statistics are questionable in light of the Obama Administration’s Operation Fast and Furious. The scheme was designed to foster illegal gun trafficking between the U.S. and Mexico with the intent of justifying stricter U.S. gun laws.  

While Mexico’s Constitution does provide for private ownership of firearms, the Mexican military controls, and severely limits, individual firearm sales. The military estimates that less than one percent of the firearms in Mexico are legally registered and 90 percent of all firearms are used for criminal purposes. The question is how serious is the U.S. about stemming the illegal flow of firearms into Mexico and the answer is not that serious.


According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, “most of the firearms seized in Mexico that were traced and found to be of U.S. origin came from U.S. Southwest border states.” Ironically, most were bought legally, often by illegal aliens, in the U.S. then smuggled across the border thanks to a little known U.S. court decision.  

On August 20, 2015, Chief Judge Diane Wood wrote for a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit that the panel could “see no principled way to carve out the Second Amendment and say that [illegal aliens] are excluded” from exercising Second Amendment rights. The decision affords illegal aliens the same Second Amendment rights to own guns as law abiding U.S. citizens. Wood, a President Clinton appointee, was under consideration by President Obama for the Supreme Court vacancy.

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