Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco addresses the Southbound Firearms Trafficking Coordination Meeting, emphasizes collaboration in combating gun violence

 Washington, DC - In a gathering of law enforcement officials and government representatives, Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco delivered a powerful speech at the Southbound Firearms Trafficking Coordination Meeting on Wednesday, June 14, 2023. The event, hosted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), focused on the shared mission of safeguarding the American people and disrupting illegal firearms trafficking networks.

Expressing her gratitude to the ATF and its dedicated workforce, Deputy Attorney General Monaco acknowledged the commitment of all attendees towards combatting the epidemic of gun violence that has deeply affected communities across the nation. Notable figures present at the meeting included Deputy Secretary John Tien, Deputy Homeland Security Advisor Josh Geltzer, and Ambassador Ken Salazar.

Deputy Attorney General Monaco stressed the importance of a united and comprehensive approach to address the magnitude of gun and drug trafficking networks that pose a significant threat. She highlighted the ATF's efforts to prevent the trafficking of illegal firearms within the United States, particularly emphasizing the alarming rise of "ghost guns" that have exacerbated the problem.

Of particular concern is the trafficking of firearms from the United States into Mexico, which significantly contributes to violence and instability in the region. Deputy Attorney General Monaco underscored the devastating consequences of these weapons falling into the hands of drug cartels, leading to intimidation, challenges to state authority, and an expansion of the deadly drug trade back into the United States. She also paid tribute to the bravery of Mexican security forces in their pursuit of justice.

The Department of Justice has taken significant steps to combat this pressing challenge. Deputy Attorney General Monaco outlined four key initiatives aimed at tackling firearms trafficking. First, through Operation Southbound, a joint effort with Mexican law enforcement partners, the DOJ has increased operations to disrupt the trafficking of firearms from the U.S. to Mexico. This collaborative approach has yielded positive results, with a substantial increase in firearm seizures and ammunition recovery.

Secondly, in partnership with the Government of Mexico, the DOJ has expanded access to the ATF's eTrace system, enabling Mexican law enforcement to track crime guns swiftly and identify their origin and purchaser. The utilization of this system has proven effective, leading to successful traces on a significant number of firearms.

Additionally, the Department of Justice established a new cartel weapons trafficking group, led by U.S. Attorneys, along the Southwest border. This strategic initiative has taken decisive action against firearm-trafficking networks, contributing to the disruption of criminal operations.

Lastly, the DOJ has utilized new criminal authorities provided by the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act to hold firearms traffickers accountable. Over 100 defendants have already been charged with violations of these provisions, and the firearms-trafficking offense has seen substantial progress, particularly in border-state U.S. Attorneys' Offices.

Deputy Attorney General Monaco highlighted notable investigations and prosecutions resulting from these initiatives, exemplifying the fruitful collaboration between U.S. and Mexican law enforcement. Notable cases include the arrest of Michel Bacasegua-Barriga, the alleged leader of a transnational firearms trafficking group, and the prosecution of Roberto Lugardo Moreno Jr., who straw-purchased a firearm in Texas linked to a high-profile kidnapping and murder in Matamoros.

Deputy Attorney General Monaco urged attendees to redouble their efforts in combating firearms trafficking by emphasizing data-driven approaches, maintaining momentum during the summer months, and strengthening cooperation with Mexican partners. She also revealed plans to work closely with a newly established unit in Mexico focused on firearms trafficking, with the aim of enhancing information sharing and tracing seized firearms back to their source in the United States.

The upcoming U.S.-Mexico High-Level Security Dialogue was highlighted as an opportunity for senior officials from both countries to prioritize shared security interests, including combating firearms trafficking.

In conclusion, Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco expressed her gratitude to all attendees for their unwavering dedication to combating violent gun trafficking networks. She expressed confidence in their leadership and underscored the vital importance of their work in keeping communities safe.

The Southbound Firearms Trafficking Coordination Meeting served as a testament to the commitment and collaboration necessary to address the pressing issue of firearms trafficking and protect the safety and well-being of the American people.

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