Fairly Civil‘s last post on the alleged plot by Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) leaders in El Salvador to assassinate an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent (“John Doe”) in Queens, New York, brought a skeptical response from some law enforcement quarters. Here is the core of the post, which includes excerpts from an affidivait accompanying a request for an arrest warrant:
According to an affidavit filed in support of an arrest warrant, an MS-13 member specifically tasked to kill the ICE agent described the plot to federal agents. The gangsters were looking for an AK-47 or M-16 assault rifle to do the job.
The post also referred to a similar alleged MS-13 plot to kill LAPD gang detective Frank Flores, described in “The Plot to Whack a Cop,” which can be found here.
But retired Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department gang Sergeant Richard Valdemar questions in a private communication to the author whether these two incidents show a pattern, much less a shift, in MS-13′s abilities and intent regarding attacks on law enforcement officers:
Funny how in the many years (1993-2004) working with the FBI Task Force with numerous agents and agencies on the MS they would now fix on one LAPD Officer Flores in Los Angeles and one “John Doe” the ICE man in New York, and they can’t seem to find a AR-15 or AK-47 to do the dastardly deed. I think there have been a lot more effective cases and cops doing serious damage to the gang over the years than these two.
More likely …an informant, or couple of informants, got twisted in Los Angeles and New York, and gave up their own clique homeboys with information that they knew the cops would value (“they plan to kill a cop”). This kind of talk goes on a lot in the gang world, but the gang members don’t always go beyond the talking stage. And you, who has studied the trafficking in weapons associated with gangs (transnational gangs especially), can’t seriously buy the …”we can’t find an assault rifle to use” excuse.
At least one mid-level ICE official active in anti-gang operations in the Southwest agrees that one case does not make a pattern shift for MS-13 (the depredations and history of which are detailed in my book No Boundaries: Transnational Latino Gangs and American Law Enforcement.)
Be that as it may, the cases raise an interesting question. What kind of gangster or would-be terrorist can’t find the tools to do the job in the United States?
The gangsters in the ICE case allegedly were having problems finding their weapons of choice, i.e. a “fully automatic” M-16 or AK clone. This echoed the case of would-be terrorists in Boston, posted here, who gave up a plot to shoot up shopping centers because they also could not obtain machine guns:
Fortunately, however, these jihadists thought they need machine guns, i.e., fully automatic weapons — hold the trigger down and the gun will fire until ammo is exhausted – to do the job. They gave up when they found out they could not obtain machine guns. However, knowledgeable experts understand that controlled fire from semiautomatic weapons — pull the trigger for each round — is at least as lethal and often more lethal than machine gun fire.
Thank g-d these extremist would-be terrorists were “weaponry pea brains.”
One might conclude that both of these cases simply reflect fortuitous ignorance on the part of would-be plotters. Knowledge of firearms is not — as too many voices active in public fora apparently assume — easily received wisdom. There is a stunning array of gun and ammunition types, with diverse capabilities, pros and cons, easily and widely available on the U.S. civilian gun market — not to mention the widespread criminal traffic in guns. Any terrorist or gangster who complains about not being able to find the right tool for the job at hand is either a pea-brain or a poseur. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! But how long can we count on stupidity?
On the other hand, three successful mass shooters demonstrated that with firearms easily obtainable on the U.S. civilian market, a little bit of knowledge, premeditation, criminal intent, mental imbalance, and/or jihadist inspiration can be easily transformed into mass blood and carnage on … one wants to say “soft targets,” but how does one classify a U.S. Army fort?
Cho Seung-Hui committed suicide after killing 32 and wounding 25 in his infamous “Virginia Tech Massacre.” Washington Beltway sniper John Muhammad is scheduled to meet his maker after execution by lethal injection Tuesday, November 10. 1009, the U.S. Supreme Court having rejected his last-ditch appeal. Major Nidal Malik Hasan is alive at this writing, while government agencies try to figure out whether he was “merely” a jihadist gone nuts or a globally linked-in jihadist.
Major Hasan’s Choice for Killing Soldiers — The FN FiveseveN High Capacity Semiautomatic Pistol
FN Herstal’s FiveseveN (cute name, eh?) semiautomatic pistol fires a small caliber round at very high velocity. It is plain and simply a “vest-buster.” The proprietary round-handgun combination is one of the most popular firearms smuggled by firearms traffickers into Mexico, where it is known as the matapolicia, or “cop killer.”
FN originally created the 5.7X28mm cartridge as the ammunition for the P-90 submachine gun. The P-90 SMG was designed at the invitation of NATO and in response to military needs for a weapon to be used by “troops who needed both hands for other tasks, such as officers, NCOs and technical troops,” and that would be effective against the body armor that has become standard on the battlefield.
In the mid-1990s FNH set out to design a handgun to accompany the P90 SMG. This would not have been an issue if FN had stuck to its original profession that it would restrict the sale of its new armor-piercing ammunition and pistol.
The company clearly recognized the dangerous genie it was releasing. For example, a spokesman for the company told the Sunday Times in 1996 that the pistol was “too potent” for normal police duties and was designed for anti-terrorist and hostage rescue operations. The NRA’s American Rifleman claimed in 1999 that: “Law enforcement and military markets are the target groups of FN’s new FiveseveN pistol,” and told its readers, “Don’t expect to see this cartridge sold over the counter in the United States. In this incarnation, it is strictly a law enforcement or military round.” In 2000, American Handgunner magazine assured the public, “For reasons that will become obvious, neither the gun nor the ammunition will ever be sold to civilians or even to individual officers.”
In fact, however, the gun is being freely sold to civilians today, along with clearly problematic ammunition, through a variety of channels. What changed was precisely nothing.
Major Nidal Malik Hasan most likely gave some serious thought to his choice of weapons. With its high capacity magazine, extremely high velocity round, and cop-killing notoriety in Mexico, the FN FiveseveN was quite demonstrably an effective choice.
The reasons that American Handgunner referred to in 2000 became “obvious” last Thursday as Hasan efficiently murdered soldiers at Fort Hood in cold blood.
Beltway Snipers Chose Bushmaster AR -15 Clone
John Allen Muhammad was the senior member of the infamous Beltway sniper duo. His minor sidekick, Lee Boyd Malvo, was sentenced to life in prison for his role in the shootings, which took place over three weeks in October 2002 in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. Ten people were killed and three others critically injured, as well as three other crime-related deaths attributed to the pair in Louisiana and Alabama.
Muhammad, a veteran of the Persian Gulf war, picked a type of firearm with which he was undoubtedly familiar — a Bushmaster AR-15 type clone of the military’s M-16 assault rifle. Bushmaster made its mark and fortune by cranking out AR-15 clones that beat the impossibly porous 1994 Semiautomatic Assault Weapons “Ban.”
AR-15 rifles of this type are as common in America as weed-whackers in spring at a suburban hardware store. Here’s the point for slow-readers in this context: Any gangster or would-be terrorist who can’t get his hands on one of these guns — whether you call it a “semiautomatic assault rifle” or a “thunder-stick” — or one of the the AK clones that have been dumped in the country latterly by Eastern European manufacturers and U.S. import-whores is simply in the wrong game.
Cho’s Choice — Ex-Lockmaker Gaston Glock’s High Capacity Model 19
Virginia Tech shooter Cho chose as his lead weapon the Glock Model 19, perhaps the archetype of the modern high-capacity semiautomatic pistol. Easy to shoot, quick to reload, and demanding neither skill nor experience when shooting down unsuspecting innocents, the Glock Model 19 is also a favorite of gangsters and assorted thugs from Vancouver to the Yucatan.
“Tom Diaz has worn out some shoe leather—much like a good detective—in gathering facts, not myths or urban legend. “
—Chris Swecker, Former Assistant Director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division.
“Few people know more about the subject than Tom Diaz and no single book tells the whole story better than No Boundaries. If you really want to know what organized crime in America looks like today, then read this alarming book.”
—Rocky Delgadillo, former City Attorney of Los Angeles
Order No Boundaries from Amazon.com