HOUSTON — Federal investigators are tracking guns that are being bought in Houston only to be sent south of the border.
It's a problem that investigators said is on the rise, but where the guns are actually coming from might surprise you.
The surge in guns that are being stolen from cars has been well-documented around the Houston area, but authorities said those are usually handguns. ATF investigators said the guns heading to Mexico are rifles bought from stores by people recruited by cartels.
US Ambassador to Mexico Ken Salazar said it's a problem they've worked hard to address with the Mexican government.
"For the first time in the history of our security relationship, we have an ongoing sharing of information with the Mexican government surrounding these issues. We’re doing it directly with the Attorney General in Mexico and his office, as well as with the security cabinet," he said.
At the ATF lab in Houston, they fire weapons and enter them into a nationwide database where they see if they've been used in other crimes.
There's also a new law in the United States that targets the people buying the guns. They're called "straw purchasers" and are people who can pass background checks and give the guns to the people who can't pass the checks.
"If they continue to repeat over and over buying guns, they know that something is wrong with that," ATF Special Agent in Charge Fred Milanowski said.
The ATF said that their department opened about 400 firearms trafficking cases in the Houston area last year. They said they're on pace to top that number this year.