Sunday, June 16, 2024

Less than 5% of illegal firearms are seized by Mexican authorities

The number of firearms estimated to have been brought into Mexico illegally since 2012 is more than 20 times higher than the number of guns seized by authorities in the same period, according to data from the Federal Attorney General’s Office (FGR).

Data obtained by the El Economista newspaper via a freedom of information request to the FGR shows that authorities confiscated 105,358 firearms between 2012 and April 2023.

In 10 years, Mexico has seized just over 100,000 illegal firearms, half of the number of firearms predicted to be smuggled into Mexico this year alone. (Rogelio Morales/Cuartoscuro)

The federal government estimates that at least 200,000 guns are smuggled into Mexico each year, meaning that approximately 2.26 million firearms entered the country between 2012 and last April.

The number of guns seized in the period – made up of 41,341 long guns and 64,017 pistols – is equivalent to just 4.6% of 2.26 million.

FGR data shows that the highest number of firearms seized in a single year since 2012 was 15,449 in 2019, the first full year of the current government. However, gun seizures were significantly lower in subsequent years of the López Obrador administration.

The year with the lowest number of gun seizures was 2016, during which 7,180 illegal weapons were taken off the streets of Mexico, according to the FGR.

The majority of illegal firearms are confiscated in Mexico City and the northern border states. (Guardia Nacional/X)

During the past 12 years, almost 12% of pistol seizures – 7,564 in total – occurred in Mexico City, making confiscations of that kind more common in the capital than in any of the country’s 31 states. Baja California, where Mexico’s most violent city, Tijuana, is located, ranked second for pistol seizures with 5,437 followed by Jalisco with 4,672.

Tamaulipas, a northern border state that is notorious for cartel activity, recorded the highest number of long gun seizures since 2012 with 6,435 or 15.6% of the total. Michoacán ranked second with 4,919 long gun seizures followed by Guerrero with 3,543.

The vast majority of firearms smuggled into Mexico come from the United States, and many end up in the hands of violent criminals such as members of drug cartels. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in 2019 that guns from the U.S. are used in seven out of every 10 high-impact crimes committed in Mexico.

In 2021, the federal government sued U.S. gunmakers, accusing them of negligent business practices that have led to illegal arms trafficking and deaths in Mexico.

Last year, Mexico filed a lawsuit against units of Smith & Wesson, Barrett Firearms, Colt’s Manufacturing Company and Glock Inc, among other gun makers, arguing that they knew their business practices caused illegal arms trafficking to Mexico. (Shutterstock)

However, Mexico’s case — championed by former foreign affairs minister Marcelo Ebrard until he left that position in June — was dismissed by the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts in September 2022, prompting the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (SRE) to file an appeal in March. A ruling on the appeal has not yet been made.

Ebrard said late last year that most of Mexico is plagued by a “firearms pandemic,” although he also touted the number of guns the current has seized. The confiscation numbers he cited for the period between 2020 and September 2022 were significantly higher than those provided to El Economista by the FGR.

Two security experts who spoke with El Economista praised the government for filing lawsuits against U.S. gunmakers and gun stores.

“It’s an important precedent, it had never been done before,” said Vicente Sánchez, an academic at the College of the Northern Border in Tijuana.

However, both Sánchez and Eunice Rendón said that authorities can do more at an operational level to combat arms trafficking.

Rendón, a security expert who has worked as a government official, said that both Mexico and the United States need to do more to stop gun violence, which she asserted has reached “crisis” levels in Mexico.

The availability of illegal firearms has brought Mexico to a gun violence “crisis” point, according to security expert Eunice Rendón. (Eunice Rendón/X)

Sánchez questioned the performance of Mexican customs given that the majority of weapons come into the country at official ports of entry on the northern border. Most guns enter via “regular crossings,” he said.

Ebrard – who is now vying to contest the 2024 presidential election as a candidate for the ruling Morena party – has repeatedly said that the United States needs to do more to stop the flow of firearms into Mexico.

In November 2022, he said that “the effort the United States has to make to drastically reduce the flow [of firearms] to Mexico is very small compared to the effort Mexico has to make to control precursor chemicals and [the flow of] drugs that reach the United States.”

“… In other words, we’re not asking them to carry out a huge, difficult, complex, almost impossible operation,” he told a Mexico City conference on arms trafficking.

Earlier in 2022, he said that U.S. authorities should be checking vehicles leaving that country for Mexico with the same thoroughness as they check those entering the U.S.

With reports from El Economista 

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