February 2, 2011 / 10:39 PM / 9 years ago

U.S. customs nab assault rifles bound for Mexico

EL PASO, Texas (Reuters) - U.S. customs agents in Texas seized 14 high-powered assault rifles when they searched a car heading into Mexico, and arrested the driver, authorities said on Wednesday..

Agents at the Del Rio port of entry found the stash of Kalashnikov and AR-15-type assault rifles in the trunk of a BMW headed into Mexico on Tuesday, and arrested the 22-year-old driver from Fort Worth, the Customs and Border Protection agency said in a news release.

The United States is under pressure to curb the illicit flow of guns to Mexico, where more than 34,000 people have been slaughtered in raging drug violence since late 2006, when President Felipe Calderon took office and vowed to crush the powerful cartels.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, about 90 percent of the crime guns seized and traced in Mexico last year were initially sold in the United States.

In a bid to make U.S. investigators more effective in targeting the trade, the ATF last month sought to tighten reporting requirements on multiple sales of high powered rifles in the four southwest border states flanking Mexico.

The change would require some 8,500 gun dealers in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas to report sales of two or more semi-automatic rifles with detachable magazines to the same person within a five-day period, although the government has yet to implement it amid pressure from advocates for gun ownership.

The gun haul seized by Customs officers in Del Rio also included a shotgun with a silencer, a pistol, ammunition and high capacity “drum” magazines, which can hold 75 bullets.

Reporting by Tim Gaynor; Editing by Greg McCune

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