Agents may use paintball guns at the border
By Delane Cleveland
The KMSB News (Tucson), April 23, 2008
Its a popular weekend activity paintball games. But now it may become the next weapon along the border to protect federal agents from attacks.
The United States Border Patrol has purchased 1,000 guns that fire non-lethal paintball, or pepper pellets. Theyve been using the pepper for several months, but soon paintballs could be unleashed to mark people who attack agents from across the border.
Border Patrol agents say they are regularly attacked as they patrol the international boundary, usually by someone throwing rocks. A Mexican newspaper is quoting a Border Patrol official saying that beginning this summer, the agents will use paintballs to shoot the perpetrators so that they can be tracked down.
A surveillance video from an incident last year in El Paso shows a Border Patrol agent retreating after people pelt him with rocks. 'Sometimes these rocks can be of a good softball size,' says Border Patrol spokesman Mario Escalante. 'A rock to the head could prove very dangerous.'
However Human Rights activists say its a bad idea because if a person not wearing protective gear is hit by a paintball, they could be injured. And theres also the possibility of missing your target and paintballing the wrong person. 'Whats gonna happen if an agent were to shoot it over the border, miss somebody there, and hit someone else?,' says Kat Rodriguez of the group Derechos Humanos.
But Escalante says agents are being trained in the proper use of the pepper and paintball guns. 'All our agents have to be hit so they can feel the kinetic impact of the projectiles, so they know the extent to which they have to be used,' he says.
Escalante says they have received no official notification that theyll use paintballs in the Tucson sector, but other Border Patrol agents say we may see them as early as June.