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Officials aim to halt flow of guns and ammo to Mexican cartels

Photographers and cameramen take images of different kinds of firearms, cocaine and military uniforms seized to alleged members of the Zetas drug traffickers cartel and presented to press on June 9, 2011 at the Navy Secretaryship in Mexico City. Officials say most of the arms that eventually find their way into the arms of Mexican drug cartels were sold in the U.S., and transported south, some along Californian roads.
Photographers and cameramen take images of different kinds of firearms, cocaine and military uniforms seized to alleged members of the Zetas drug traffickers cartel and presented to press on June 9, 2011 at the Navy Secretaryship in Mexico City. Officials say most of the arms that eventually find their way into the arms of Mexican drug cartels were sold in the U.S., and transported south, some along Californian roads.
Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty Images

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State and local officials were joined by Mexican law enforcement in Los Angeles Tuesday to discuss California’s role as a pipeline for illegal weapons to Mexican drug cartels.

Authorities say California actually ranks much lower than other border states in gun trafficking. But the state's highways are often used to transport the weapons.

State Senator Kevin De Leon chairs the Senate Select Committee on Immigration and the Economy. The L.A. Democrat says federal leadership is critical in curbing the flood of weapons and ammunition into Mexico and the rest of Latin America.

“I am deeply concerned, however, that some in Congress are more focused on distracting the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms from their core mission and getting to the bottom of failed policies of the past,” De Leon said.

L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca criticized Congress for not renewing the federal assault weapons ban that expired several years ago.

“You got this whole thing where California has one set of rules, Arizona has another set of rules, Texas has another set of rules and therefore the national strategy is one of benign neglect relative to how this problem can be best managed," Baca said.

He added that ATF is notoriously understaffed, and said he believes that's part of the problem.

“Clearly, ATF is designed to do a job and the federal government needs to ratchet up the funding for ATF if we’re ever really going to get a better handle on this problem.”

Mexican authorities say most of the 75,000 illegal firearms they’ve seized in recent years came from the U.S.

Alejandro Lares Valladares, Chief of Police Liaison in Tijuana, said Tijuana authorities this year have confiscated 11,259 pieces of ammunition that traffickers have smuggled into the area. That's more than double the amount from a few years ago.

Law enforcement representatives from El Salvador and Guatemala also attended the hearing.