Latin America

2,000 illegal firearms entering Mexico from US each day, study finds

Research concludes that 13 million unlicensed weapons are circulating in the country

A truck from the US filled with arms and munitions seized in Mexico 2012.
A truck from the US filled with arms and munitions seized in Mexico 2012.EFE

Inside the public market in Teptio – one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Mexico City – many of the stalls look empty. Those who go there know what they are looking for is hidden beneath the counters. It’s no secret that this is the place where you can purchase weapons.

Of the 15 million firearms in Mexico, 13 million are illegal, according to a Mexican congressional study that based its findings on data from national and international organizations, including the United Nations.

The study concludes that around 2,000 firearms enter the country illegally every day from the United States. Two out of three violent crimes committed with firearms involve weapons that arrived illegally from Mexico’s neighbor to the north, while 40 percent of the firearms confiscated from drug traffickers come from Texas.

The ease with which weapons can be acquired in the US is one of the biggest causes of violence in Mexico

The ease with which weapons can be acquired in the US is one of the biggest reasons why so much violence is occurring in Mexico, said José de Jesús González, the lead researcher who conducted the study.

“Mexican cartels can easily purchase firearms [in the United States] through third parties or at gun shows,” he explained. “In Mexico, it is practically impossible to legally purchase a weapon but in the border states of the neighboring country there are more than 8,000 gun dealers.”

Among the illegal weapons being used by criminal organizations in Mexico are rockets, rocket launchers, grenade launchers, Barrett rifles and grenades. Then there is also the new generation of sub-machine guns and pistols, such as the FN Herstal, which is capable of piercing armor.

There are between 45 million and 80 million firearms in circulation throughout Latin America

There are between 45 million and 80 million firearms throughout Latin America. In Colombia, it is estimated that there are four illegal firearms for every licensed weapon. In Brazil, half of the 16 million firearms in the country are illegal. But in Mexico the numbers are worse: 85 percent of all guns in the country are illegal.

Violent crime involving weapons in Mexico far exceeds the world average. Globally, 42 percent of homicides involve firearms, but in Central America (which includes Mexico) that figure goes up to 70 percent.

The report also quotes an analysis prepared by the University of San Diego in California and the Igarapé Institute in Brazil, which puts profits from weapons illegally sold to Mexico at $127 million. The UN Office for Drugs and Crime puts the global profit figure between $170 million and $320 million annually.

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