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CONTACT: Center for Public Integrity (CPI)
Randy Barrett (202) 481-1256 or Steve Carpinelli (202) 481-1225
U.S.-Modified Assault Weapons Fuel Mexican Drug Violence
WASHINGTON - February 3 - For decades, it has been illegal to import foreign-made assault weapons into the United States. But American importers like Century International Arms have discovered legal ways to maneuver around the law and sell such firearms in the U.S. - guns that regularly find their way into the hands of Mexican drug cartels, according to a new investigation.
The joint probe by the Center for Public Integrity, the Investigative Reporting Workshop at the American University School of Communication, FRONTLINE, InSight, and the Romanian Centre for Investigative Journalism offers an unprecedented look inside the circuitous route traversed by Century Arms' WASR-10 assault rifle. It winds from a Romanian factory through a Vermont warehouse where the guns are refitted to wholesalers and then gun dealers on the border, and finally into the hands of cartel henchmen engaged in a bloody firefight in the Mexican state of Sonora. The rifle is a modified AK-47 design, a semiautomatic with a high-capacity magazine.
The Gun Control Act of 1968 theoretically bars such weapons from entry into the U.S. It blocks imports of all guns except those with a "sporting purpose," such as hunting or target shooting. But gaps in the law allow Century Arms to change out parts of the WASR 10 to make it a legal, "American made" weapon - with features that would otherwise be barred and a price tag of about $500.
Some 50 members of Congress have pleaded with the Obama administration to close what they believe are loopholes in the "sporting purposes" test, but the Justice Department says the current law works just fine.
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