Mexico wants a gun registry in the Southwest US

Mexico's Congress voted to formally ask the United States Senate to create a registry of all commercialized firearms in the states of California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. Although the motion will have little impact in the US, it shows the gun control issue continues to resonate on both sides of the border. 

The measure was approved January 9 by Mexico's Permanent Commission, the government body that meets when the Senate and the lower house of Congress, the Chamber of Deputies, is in recess. 

The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) senator who introduced the proposal said it was intended to make it easier to trace guns used in violent attacks, reports Mexican newspaper Informador. Close to 60,000 people were killed during the six-year presidency of Felipe Calderon, who left office in December. 

The US Southwest is a significant source of weaponry for Mexico's criminal organizations, who typically purchase firearms from US gun stores via a middleman or "straw buyer." 

In one indication of the reach of these arms trafficking networks, a semi-automatic pistol recently found at the scene of one shootout in Mexico has been traced back to a former Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) agent, as Minneapolis newspaper the Star Tribune reports. The semi-automatic was found at the scene of the shootout that killed a Mexican beauty queen.

The gun was traced back to an ATF agent who worked in Arizona and played a prominent role in the so-called "Fast and Furious" scandal, which charged the ATF had willingly allowed weapons to "walk" across the border in an attempt to prosecute the main purchasers of the guns in Mexico. The scheme failed to reach the high level targets, and some of the weapons were later used in attacks on US law enforcement prompting a congressional investigation and hearings. The ATF agent apparently sold the weapon online for $1,100 to a US citizen in Arizona. 

InSight Crime Analysis

The vote will likely prove to be a symbolic one. Gun laws in the US Southwest vary, with stricter controls enforced in California, compared to Arizona and Texas. It is unlikely that the US Senate will begin to pressure these areas to enforce more stringent controls anytime soon, although President Barack Obama has said that he is contemplating presidential decrees that would make it more difficult to obtain assault weapons nationwide. This threat follows the shooting deaths of 27 people, most of them children, in a Newtown, Connecticut school. 

The US is not the only illicit source of weaponry in Mexico. Guns stolen or illegally sold by the Mexican military, the owner of the only legal gun store in the country, are also thought to provide criminal groups with firepower. Some soldiers and police in Central America also illegally supply weapons to organized criminal groups throughout the region.

Still, the US is by far the largest supplier of weapons to Mexican criminal organizations, according to numerous ATF agents interviewed by InSight Crime.