A new study found that nearly half of United States firearms dealers are economically dependent on demand from Mexico, while under 15 percent of illicitly trafficked arms are seized at the border, highlighting the US role in Mexican gun violence.

The study, titled "The Way of the Gun: Estimating Firearms Traffic Across the U.S.-Mexico Border," aimed to quantify the US role in feeding Mexico's gun violence, which continues to rise despite tight gun control policies and a lack of arms manufacturing in Mexico.

Researchers found that from 2010 to 2012, approximately 46.7 percent of US firearms dealers depended on business from the US-Mexico gun trade for their economic survival.

Comparing the periods 1993 to 1999 and 2010 to 2012, University of San Diego researchers found that the sale and value of firearms destined for Mexico has grown significantly. In the most recent period, 2.2 percent of US firearm sales were destined for Mexico, compared to 1.75 percent in 1993.

The actual number of firearms purchased to be trafficked across the US-Mexico border was estimated to be between 106,700 and 426,729, worth $53.7 to 214.6 million. This represents a significant growth from the 35,597 to 152,142 arms bought for trafficking between 1997 to 1999, worth $13 to 55.4 million.

Meanwhile, US and Mexican authorities were estimated to seize less than 15 percent of these firearms at the border, with the US responsible for just two percent of seizures.

The study notes that, according to 2012 Mexican military estimates, just a third of a percent of firearms in Mexico are legally registered and 90 percent are used for criminal activity.

InSight Crime Analysis

A 2012 US government study found that 70 percent of firearms recovered in Mexico over a five-year period could be traced to the US.

The current study deepens understanding of this trade by quantifying US profits from Mexican firearms trafficking, and providing a percentage, rather than a real number, of arms seized. The numbers indicate a lack of interest -- or at least ineffectiveness -- on the part of the US in stopping this illicit trade and show how little effect tight gun restrictions in one country have if a neighbor country serves as a ready supplier.

Loose state gun and ammunition control laws in the southwestern states contribute significantly to the problem, as highlighted by a 125-fold increase in the seizure of ammunition at the Arizona-Mexico border from 2007 to 2011.

In recent years there have even been accusations Mexican cartel the Zetas have acquired arms through a US government program intended to monitor gun sales, while the US Bureau of Alcohol Firearms and Tobacco (ATF) controversially supplied weapons to arms dealers in a mostly failed attempt to trace their progress through the Mexican underworld as part of operation "Fast and Furious."

A January 2013 ruling aimed to tighten US control over illicit arms trafficking. Following the ruling, Arizona, Texas, California and New Mexico gun dealers are required to report individuals who make multiple purchases of semi-automatic rifles.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

The FARC 2002-Present: Decapitation and Rebirth

The FARC 2002-Present: Decapitation and Rebirth

In August 2002, the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) greeted Colombia's new president with a mortar attack that killed 14 people during his inauguration. The attack was intended as a warning to the fiercely anti-FARC newcomer. But it became the opening salvo of...

The Infiltrators: Corruption in El Salvador's Police

The Infiltrators: Corruption in El Salvador's Police

Ricardo Mauricio Menesses Orellana liked horses, and the Pasaquina rodeo was a great opportunity to enjoy a party. He was joined at the event -- which was taking place in the heart of territory controlled by El Salvador's most powerful drug transport group, the Perrones -- by the...

Barrio 18 Leader 'Viejo Lin' on El Salvador Gang Truce

Barrio 18 Leader 'Viejo Lin' on El Salvador Gang Truce

Barrio 18 leader Carlos Lechuga Mojica, alias "El Viejo Lin," is one of the most prominent spokesmen for El Salvador's gang truce. InSight Crime co-director Steven Dudley spoke with Mojica in Cojutepeque prison in October 2012 about how the maras view the controversial peace process, which has...

The Reality of the FARC Peace Talks in Havana

The Reality of the FARC Peace Talks in Havana

If we are to believe the Colombian government, the question is not if, but rather when, an end to 50 years of civil conflict will be reached. Yet the promise of President Juan Manuel Santos that peace can be achieved before the end of 2014 is simply...

MS-13's 'El Barney': A Trend or an Isolated Case?

MS-13's 'El Barney': A Trend or an Isolated Case?

In October 2012, the US Treasury Department designated the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) as a transnational criminal organization (TCO). While this assertion seems unfounded, there is one case that illustrates just why the US government is worried about the future.

'Chepe Luna,' the Police and the Art of Escape

'Chepe Luna,' the Police and the Art of Escape

The United States -- which through its antinarcotics, judicial and police attaches was very familiar with the routes used for smuggling, and especially those used for people trafficking and understood that those traffickers are often one and the same -- greeted the new government of Elias Antonio...

Ivan Rios Bloc: the FARC's Most Vulnerable Fighting Division

Ivan Rios Bloc: the FARC's Most Vulnerable Fighting Division

When considering the possibilities that the FARC may break apart, the Ivan Rios Bloc is a helpful case study because it is perhaps the weakest of the FARC's divisions in terms of command and control, and therefore runs the highest risk of fragmentation and criminalization.

Criminalization of FARC Elements Inevitable

Criminalization of FARC Elements Inevitable

While there is no doubt that the FARC have only a tenuous control over some of their more remote fronts, there is no evidence of any overt dissident faction within the movement at the moment.

The FARC 1964-2002: From Ragged Rebellion to Military Machine

The FARC 1964-2002: From Ragged Rebellion to Military Machine

On May 27, 1964 up to one thousand Colombian soldiers, backed by fighter planes and helicopters, launched an assault against less than fifty guerrillas in the tiny community of Marquetalia. The aim of the operation was to stamp out once and for all the communist threat in...

The FARC and the Drug Trade: Siamese Twins?

The FARC and the Drug Trade: Siamese Twins?

The FARC have always had a love-hate relationship with drugs. They love the money it brings, funds which have allowed them to survive and even threaten to topple the state at the end of the 1990s. They hate the corruption and stigma narcotics have also brought to...