For Release: Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Washington, DC–The Violence Policy Center (VPC) today launched a new on-line resource, Cross-Border Gun Trafficking: An Ongoing Analysis of the Types of Firearms Illegally Trafficked from the United States to Mexico and Other Latin American and Caribbean Countries as Revealed in U.S. Court Documents. The site is available in both English (vpc.org/indicted) and Spanish (vpc.org/indictedesp).
Cross-Border Gun Trafficking contains indictments and other documents related to federal gun trafficking prosecutions filed since 2006 primarily in the southwest United States. The documents detail specific information such as the make, model, caliber, manufacturer, and retail source of firearms seized in criminal trafficking cases. The resources available on the website confirm that military-style semiautomatic firearms readily available on the U.S. civilian gun market are highly sought after by international gun traffickers and also describe the methods, such as “straw purchases,” that are commonly employed to obtain weapons in the U.S. to smuggle to Mexico and other Latin American countries. The website, which includes PDFs of the legal documents it uses as its primary source documents, will be continually updated with new trafficking cases (PDFs of original source documents contained on the site are available only in English).
The website’s data and legal documents offer insight into the weapons favored by Mexican traffickers–the make and model of guns, the most common sources, and the methods by which they obtain such weapons. The information augments the crime gun trace data compiled by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). (While the site’s findings offer a snapshot of the types of firearms preferred by cross-border gun traffickers, the findings should not be viewed in any way as offering an estimate of the overall numbers of guns attempted to be trafficked from the U.S. into other countries.)
Currently, the site contains information from 91 cases in 13 states and catalogs nearly 4,500 firearms detailed in the documents. The site notes, and court documents suggest, that because of its more comprehensive statewide gun laws (including a ban on assault weapons and tougher sales standards) California is a far less attractive environment for traffickers than other border states such as Arizona and Texas with few firearm regulations beyond the limited standards required by federal law.
Categories of guns catalogued include assault rifles, assault pistols, 50 caliber sniper rifles, body-armor penetrating handguns, standard pistols and revolvers, as well as other firearm types. Of the 4,454 guns currently catalogued: 2,278 were assault rifles (primarily AK-47 and AR-15 variants); 255 were assault pistols (almost all AK-47 pistol variants); 29 were 50 caliber sniper rifles; and 373 were body-armor penetrating handguns (all of which were FN Five-seveN pistols, known as the “mata policia” or “cop killer” in Mexico).