SAN DIEGO – A new study released by the University of San Diego’s Trans-Border Institute said the vast majority of firearms seized from criminal organizations in Mexico have come from the United States in recent years.
The report said one of the most significant trends has been the increased cross-border trafficking of military-style rifles and ammunition, despite both nations’ efforts to prevent it.
The study “U.S. Firearms Trafficking to Mexico: New Data and Insights Illuminate Key Trends and Challenges,” a collaboration between the Trans-Border Institute and the Woodrow Wilson Center Mexico Institute, was prepared by independent consultants and researchers Colby Goodman and Michel Marizco and released on Friday.
The authors said the cartels are using these weapons to attack police, public officials and journalists in Mexico, impose tax-like fees on the Mexican population and even attack U.S. State Department officials.
“Drug-trafficking organization actions are also contributing to major migration away from the violence and, in some cases, towards the United States,” according to the study.
The study noted that “U.S. firearms account for the vast majority of firearms seized in Mexico,” adding that of an estimated 80,000 total firearms seized from late 2006 – when President Felipe Calderon took office – to February 2010, roughly 62,800, or 80 percent, came from the United States based on data and analysis provided by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or ATF.
The report also said the gap in price between “U.S.-origin AK-47s sold just across the U.S.-Mexican border ($1,200 to $1,600) and U.S.-origin AK-47s sold in southern Mexico ($2,000 to $4,000) is another indicator of the demand for U.S. firearms in Mexico and the lack of quality assault rifles from Central America.”
The study said that over the past three years the two main firearms purchased in the United States and seized in Mexico were Romanian-made AK-47 semi-automatic rifles and AR-15 clones. Those weapons had been imported into the United States despite that country’s embargo on semi-automatic assault rifles.
Drug cartels also “are increasingly seeking, receiving, and using U.S.-origin .50 BMG caliber rifles and 5.7mm pistols and rifles and AK-47 drum magazines with 50, 75 and 100 rounds of ammunition,” the study said.
The authors propose that the U.S. government increase funding for the ATF so that agency can step up operations on the United States’ southwest border.
They also propose a new U.S. law that would require authorities be notified when multiple purchases of military-style weapons are made in the United States in a short period of time.
In addition to revoking the licenses of gun stores that repeatedly violate U.S. law, the authors recommend that the ATF add staff at the U.S. consulates in Mexican states where the majority of arms seizures have been made.
The study noted that since Calderon took office in December 2006, “there have been an estimated 28,000 drug-related killings, and most of these deaths, including extremely violent ones, were in the last two years.”