Mexican Crime, American Guns

ATF data says 3 of 4 guns used in Mexican violence come from US border states.

August 12, 2010, 10:01 AM

Sept. 7, 2010 — -- A shocking new report obtained by ABC News says that as many as three out of four guns used in crimes in Mexico and recovered and capable of being traced can be traced to gun stores just across the border in the U.S. The numbers bolster complaints by Mexican officials that the country's unprecedented bloodshed – 28,000 people have died in drug-cartel violence since 2006 – is being fueled both by the U.S. appetite for drugs, and by American weapons.

"We can say that there is enormous violence in Mexico and most of the killing is done with guns and most of the guns used in the killing are originally from gun dealers in the United States," said Arkado Gerney, one of the report's authors.

The study, based on Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) data and prepared by the advocacy group Mayors Against Illegal Guns, shows that three out of four guns used in crimes in Mexico and submitted for tracing were sold in the four U.S. states that border Mexico.

According to the report, from 2006 through 2009, 19,000 guns used in crimes in Mexico were traced to an original sale at a US gun dealer, and the bulk of the guns came from Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. Texas supplied four in ten of those weapons, and the other three border states provided an additional one third.

Mexican law places stringent restrictions on gun purchase and ownership, though it does permit ownership of shotguns and pistols.

In April Mexican President Felipe Calderón, speaking to a joint session of Congress, pleaded to US lawmakers for more help in limiting the flow of weapons to Mexico. "I understand that the purpose of the Second Amendment is to guarantee good American citizens the ability to defend themselves and their nation," he said. "But believe me, many of these guns are not going to honest American hands."

New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, a co-chair of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, noted that Congress had initially blocked the release of the ATF data used to generate the group's new report. The data analyzed in the study was requested in 2009 and not provided till March of this year.

"This is information, previously hidden by Congress, that the public needs to see, to show how guns bought in the US are fueling the drug wars in Mexico," said Bloomberg. "[It] again proves it is too easy for criminals and traffickers to get guns."

Weaker Gun Laws Attract Gun Shoppers

The report's authors also analyzed the gun trace data on a per capita basis. The numbers showed that Arizona, Texas and New Mexico had an export rate 169 percent greater than any other states, which the authors suggest may be due in part to less-restrictive gun laws in those states.

"The differences in export rates to Mexico among the four border states may reflect differences in the way those states regulate guns," the report states. In an interview with ABC News, study co-author Gerney pointed out that the effect of lax gun laws on the export rate would mirror a similar pattern within U.S. borders, where weaker gun laws in states like Virginia have been linked to the export of guns used in crimes in states with tougher laws like New York.

The top ten source states for supplying crime guns to Mexico in 2009 were Texas (2076 guns), California (1011), Arizona (690), New Mexico (173), Florida (113), Colorado (100, Oklahoma (90), Illinois (84), Nevada (56), and North Carolina (56). In total, the top ten supplier states contributed more than 4,449 guns, or about 90 percent of the guns recovered in Mexico that were originally sold in the US.

On a per capita basis, in 2009 Arizona led the pack in exporting weapons to Mexico, at a rate of 10.5 guns per 100,000 inhabitants. New Mexico, with 8.6 per 100,000, and Texas, with 8.4 per 100,000, ran a close second and third.

Recent media reports cited by the authors also indicated that the "time to crime" had dropped precipitously during the period studied: from more than six years in 2006 to under three years in 2009. "While export rates identify which states supply crime guns to Mexico at the highest rates, Time-To-Crime, or 'TTC,' measures the time between a gun's initial retail sale and its recovery in a crime," the report notes.

Mexico, according to the LA Times, has deployed 45000 troops and 5000 federal police to 18 states in a so far unsuccessful effort to halt the escalating drug violence.

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Former Mexican President Vicente Fox told Bloomberg News in July that the U.S. as well as Mexico was responsible for the violence.

"What is happening is that this huge market of the United States in drug consumption, the largest in the world, is generating the weapons that are sold to Mexican cartels, and is generating the money that is laundered in the United States and brought to Mexico," Fox said.

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