Durbin Introduces Bill to Curb Firearms Trafficking from the United States to Mexican Drug Cartels

The Stop Arming Cartels Act would stem the “iron river” of firearms trafficking enabled by weak American gun laws

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, led a group of six Senate colleagues in introducing the Stop Arming Cartels Act.

The bill would stem the “iron river” of firearms trafficking from the United States to Mexico, enabled by weakAmerican gun laws and gun industry practices. The deadly stream of firearms trafficking exacerbates violence, enables cartels who smuggle migrants to our southern border, and facilitates the illicit trade of narcotics across the border back into the United States. According to a recent studyfrom the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), 70 percent of crime guns recovered from Mexico and submitted for tracing are U.S.-sourced.

“At the hands of the NRA and the gun lobby, our country’s lax gun laws have created a deadly, vicious cycle of firearms trafficking that’s riddled with violence, illicit narcotics, and chaos. Our gun laws and gun industry practices fuel an iron river of firearms trafficking that supplies Mexican drug cartels and other criminal elements in the region, and it’s time to cut off the iron river at its source. By implementing stronger gun safety laws in America, we can disarm cartels and help prevent the violence, drug trafficking, and irregular migration associated with cartel power and violence at home and abroad. I urge my colleagues to support this critical piece of legislation,” said Durbin.

Specifically, the Stop Arming Cartels Act would:

  • Prohibit future nongovernmental manufacture, importation, sale, transfer, or possession of .50 caliber rifles;
  • Regulate existing .50 caliber rifles under the National Firearms Act, with a fee waiver and 12-month grace period for registration on the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record for those who lawfully possess them under current law;
  • Create an exception to the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), allowing victims of gun violence to sue manufacturers and dealers who engage in firearm transactions prohibited under theForeign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (the “Kingpin Act”);
  • Prohibit the sale or transfer of firearms to individuals sanctioned under the Kingpin Act and add Kingpin Act designations to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS); and
  • Require firearms dealers to report multiple sales of rifles to state and local law enforcement agencies, as they must currently do for handguns.

The bill is co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Peter Welch (D-VT), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI).

The bill is endorsed by Brady: United Against Gun Violence, Everytown for Gun Safety, Giffords, Newtown Action Alliance, March for Our Lives, Global Exchange, Global Action on Gun Violence, Amnesty International USA, and The U.S. Conference of Mayors.

The introduction of the Stop Arming Cartels Act continues Durbin’s efforts to strengthen American gun laws and combat firearms trafficking from the United States abroad. Last summer, the Senate passed and President Biden signed into law the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the most significant gun violence prevention reform in nearly three decades. Among its many provisions, the law creates federal firearm straw purchasing and trafficking criminal offenses.

In March 2022, the Senate passed the omnibus government funding bill that reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act, including provisions from the NICS Denial Notification Act. These provisions require federal law enforcement to promptly notify state law enforcement within hours when a person fails a gun background check.

In 2019, Durbin urged the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to update its reports on efforts to combat firearms trafficking from the United States to Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala and expand the report to include El Salvador and Honduras. The report revealed that 40 percent of firearms recovered in those countries came from the United States. Based on the immense value of that report, Durbin joined colleagues this year in successfully pressing the GAO to expand the study further to include the Caribbean.

Bill text is available here. A one-page summary of the bill is available here.