The governors of Arizona and the northern Mexican state of Sonora are expected to sign a deal Saturday aimed at combatting gunrunning and sharing databases of fugitive felons on both sides of the border.
The deal to be signed by Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano and Sonora Gov. Eduardo Bours Castelo will make Sonora the first Mexican state to trace illegal weapons.
The states also will promise to work on improving border entry points and share more information to combat drug smuggling. Other terms call for bolstering responses to border-spanning disasters and the development of digital maps to improve responses to emergencies.
Until now, only Mexican federal agents have had access to the data from tracing seized weapons. Under the new agreement, Sonora state police will have the same access, just as police throughout the United States.
Agents with the United States' Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will train Sonora state police on the trace system and how to identify unique weapons and recover tampered serial numbers.
Arizona will form a task force involving the state Department of Public Safety, U.S. customs agents and police from border towns and regions. The team will start immediately.
Using existing resources, officers will pull over more cars suspected of running guns to Mexico and will launch more investigations.
Bill Newell, ATF's special-agent-in-charge in Arizona, said Mexico has dramatically increased its requests for trace data since Jan. 1. Last year, 8,000 guns were seized in Mexico.
The agreement comes amid increased scrutiny of gun smuggling.
This spring, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents launched a program to stop guns from getting into the hands of Mexican drug cartels.
Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a $1.6 billion, three-year aid package to Mexico to help that country fight its increasingly bloody drug war.
The money will pay for training and equipment, including improvements in tracking weapons.