September 8, 2010
By Daniel Borunda
Forty percent of Mexico gun crimes traced by the ATF last year used guns originally sold in Texas, according to a report issued Tuesday by a coalition of U.S. mayors.
The bipartisan advocacy group Mayors Against Illegal Guns reported that 2,076 guns recovered at crime scenes in Mexico were tracked to Texas by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives.
Texas had the highest percentage of any state in the study. Another 36 percent of guns seized in Mexico were traced to sales in New Mexico, Arizona and California, according to the report by the coalition of 500 mayors. El Paso is not listed as part of the group.
"Illegal guns and their accompanying violence devastate communities across our country. Now we know more about how guns purchased here have helped sustain violent drug wars in Mexico," New York City mayor and coalition co-chairman Michael R. Bloomberg said in a statement.
The report titled, The Movement of Illegal Guns Across the U.S.-Mexico Border, was based on ATF data provided to the organization in March.
The report mentioned "90 percent of guns recovered and traced from Mexican crime scenes originated from gun dealers in the United States."
An El Paso Times investigation last year found that the "90 percent" figure, which was even quoted by President Barack Obama, refers to only the percentage of the guns submitted by Mexico to the ATF for tracing and not all guns seized in Mexico.
A spokesman for the National Rifle Association declined to comment on the new report because he had yet to see it.
Mayors Against Illegal Guns reported the ATF traced more than 5,000 guns from Mexico in 2009. The report showed the period from when a gun is purchased and then recovered in a crime in the U.S. is nearly 11 years, but the period was three years for guns in Mexico.
A recent Mexican government report on the drug war stated more than 84,000 firearms have been seized in Mexico from December 2006 to July of this year.
The Mexican government reported the current violence is due to seven wars among drug cartels in various regions of the country. There have been more than 28,000 murders in Mexico linked to organized crime since December 2006.
In Juárez, about 2,000 people have been killed this year because of the war between the Juárez and Sinaloa drug cartels. The Sinaloa cartel is also called the Pacific cartel.
Juárez Mayor Jose Reyes Ferriz is among voices asking the United States to do more to stop the flow of weaponry, including high-powered AK-47s and AR-15 rifles preferred by cartel gunmen.
"A high percentage of weapons that come into Ciudad Juárez come from the United States, and Texas is the perfect corridor. It worries us a lot," Juárez city spokesman Jaime Torres said.
Torres said the Juárez government is thankful for inspections by U.S. federal agents on the international bridges looking for firearms destined for Mexico.
The ATF is attempting to keep weapons out of the hands of Mexican drug cartels by increasingly cooperating with Mexican authorities, working with U.S. gun dealers and placing a bigger emphasis on the border.
ATF spokesman Special Agent Tom Crowley said a large number of firearms smuggled to Mexico historically come from Texas simply because of the huge Texas-Mexico border.
"What's important to realize about weapons going into Mexico is that it's not only a border issue," Crowley said via telephone from Dallas. "In El Paso, we are real busy. Everyday we are working firearms cases. We got cases out here in Dallas, Oklahoma and - to be honest - all around the country we have cases."
Crowley said cooperation between the ATF and gun sellers is needed to identify "straw buyers," or customers purchasing weapons for somebody else, including gun traffickers.
Crowley said the ATF in the "near future" will be adding extra staff in El Paso, including firearm-trafficking investigators and agents gathering intelligence.