For Release: Thursday, April 26, 2012
Washington, D.C.–The vast majority of the firearms seized in Mexico between 2007 and 2011 and traced by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) came from the United States according to new ATF trace data released today. According ATF, “Trace information shows that between calendar years 2007 and 2011 the Government of Mexico recovered and submitted more than 99,000 firearms to ATF for tracing. Of those firearms more than 68,000 were U.S.-sourced…Law enforcement in Mexico now report that certain types of rifles, such as the AK and AR variants with detachable magazines, are used more frequently to commit violent crime by drug trafficking organizations.” ATF also released trace data showing that 99 percent of the guns traced in Canada during this period came from the United States as well as data on U.S. guns recovered in the Caribbean.
Kristen Rand, Violence Policy Center (VPC) legislative director, states, “This new data only adds to the overwhelming evidence that the U.S. gun industry and its military-style weaponry play a catalytic role in fueling Mexican drug violence. Organized criminal enterprises and common criminals alike shop in the United States because the U.S. firearms industry sells a highly lethal militarized product line led by AR-15 and AK-47 assault rifles and pistols, armor-piercing handguns, and anti-armor 50 caliber sniper rifles.” This growing trend is documented in the 2011 VPC study “The Militarization of the U.S. Civilian Firearms Market” (vpc.org/regulating-the-gun-industry/militarization/).
The ATF press release with links to the international trace data released today is available on ATF’s website at http://www.atf.gov/press/releases/2012/04/042612-atf-atf-releases-government-of-mexico-firearms-trace-data.html.
ATF could immediately take steps to address the gun trafficking problem revealed by its own data by using its administrative powers to strictly enforce existing restrictions on the import of non-sporting firearms that are among the “weapons of choice” of traffickers, such as AK-47 assault rifles. This administrative ban on imported assault weapons (separate from the now-expired 1994 federal assault weapons ban) was first imposed by the George H.W. Bush Administration, was tightened by the Clinton Administration in the wake of gun industry efforts to evade it, was abandoned by the George W. Bush Administration, and is now mostly ignored by the Obama Administration.
This data also highlights the importance of allowing ATF to collect information on multiple sales of assault rifles by southern border-area gun dealers–a measure that is under attack by opponents in Congress who today in the House Appropriations Committee voted to block funding for ATF to collect this information despite the fact that this new data shows that the traffickers’ weapons of choice, AK- and AR-type rifles, are the guns targeted by the multiple sales reporting rule.