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ATF agents discuss challenges
HOUSTON - by Lauren Huet
The trafficking of firearms to Mexico and violent gun crimes are the biggest issues the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms faces in Texas. Those involved in trafficking guns and violent crimes often have firepower that threatens federal agents' lives. Thursday, ATF agents in Houston showed reporters just what they're up against.
"This goes from a semi-automatic pistol to a fully automatic pistol," said ATF Firearms Instructor Coordinator Kris Mayfield, holding a Glock.
ATF agents set up a demonstration at the Hot Wells Gun Range in Houston, to show reporters firearms the federal agents have gone up against and taken off the streets. Those weapons include a Barrett 50 caliber the ATF seized in one of its cases, and an IMI Desert Eagle agents seized during a case in Houston.
Powerful weapons like these are just some of the firearms ATF Special Response Teams might find pointed at them. To counter such heavy firepower, ATF Special Response Teams use weapons like the fully automatic Colt M4 Machine Gun.
"We're very outpowered, outmanned, and outnumbered, so we have to bring tools to the fight that we can protect ourselves, defend ourselves and help the public stay safe," said Senior Special Agent, Nicole Strong.
"Our primary mission is to fight violent crime, and to fight violent crime that's committed with firearms," said the head of the ATF's Houston Field Division, Robert Elder.
Including cases in Southeast Texas.
"We've actually worked a couple of cases here in Houston where guns that were stolen in the Beaumont - Jefferson County area, were brought over here to Houston, and were tried to be sold on the streets," said Elder.
"Houston, and of course specifically in Beaumont, our biggest challenge right now is fighting violent crimes," said Strong. "Specifically the guns going south to Mexico. We're trying to stem the flow of firearms going to Mexico."
Working to keep guns from falling into the wrong hands. The ATF says stolen guns are often taken by people who can't legally buy a gun, or those who sell to criminals.
"Whether they're convicted felons, in this country illegally, or otherwise prohibited," said Strong, "they've got to get their hands on those guns, and they know they can't walk into a gun store and buy the gun, so the guns are stolen."
ATF agents say they will continue working to keep guns from falling into the wrong hands.