- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 26, 2009

Members of Congress may be alarmed by the surge in Mexican drug violence and its potential to spill across the border, but when talk turns to gun control, opposition from both Democrats and Republicans grows fierce.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. found that out when he proposed reinstituting a U.S. ban on the sale of certain semiautomatic weapons. Many lawmakers balked. The 1994 ban expired after 10 years.

“The Second Amendment Task Force opposes the discussed ban and will fight any attempts that infringe on our Second Amendment rights,” said Rep. Paul Broun, Georgia Republican, a chairman of the group. Six Democrats and six Republicans co-signed his statement.

Mexico’s drug violence has killed more than 9,000 people since President Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006 as gangs have battled each other for territory and fought off a government crackdown with weapons imported from the United States.

Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said the administration’s plan would be inadequate if it did not enact new gun restrictions.

“The problem that is occurring in Mexico is one we are contributing to. It is one our weak gun laws are contributing to,” Mr. Helmke said.

See related story:Gang war spurs aid to Mexico border

Mexico has long tried to get the United States to curtail the number of guns - many purchased legally - that wind up south of the border, where gun laws are much stricter. The State Department says firearms obtained in the United States account for more than 90 percent of Mexico’s drug-related killings.

When border violence comes up in hearings, lawmakers say they don’t see a need for new gun laws.

“I don’t think the solution to Mexico’s problems is to limit Second Amendment gun rights in this country,” said Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “What we can do is help our Mexican friends enforce their own laws.”

For his part, President Obama has signaled a willingness to tighten restrictions on guns, calling the flow of drug money and guns “a two-way situation.” Yet 65 Democrats said in a letter to Mr. Holder that they would oppose any attempt by the administration to revive a ban on military-style weapons.

With related kidnappings and killings occurring in the United States, the White House Tuesday announced plans to shift dozens of enforcement agents and step up gun- and drug-smuggling prosecutions in the fight against Mexican drug cartels.

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