The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Mandy Wimmer,
Communications Associate, 202-822-8200 x110,

Mexican Gun Traffickers Buy Military-Style Weapons in U.S., New Study Shows

Nearly Two-Thirds of Guns Obtained by Traffickers in Cases Studied Were Semiautomatic Assault Weapons, Armor-Piercing Handguns, or 50 Caliber Sniper Rifles


U.S. court records from southwestern states clearly show that illegal gun traffickers involved in smuggling firearms to Mexico seek semiautomatic assault weapons, armor-piercing handguns, and 50 caliber anti-armor sniper rifles from U.S. gun shops according to a new report released today by the Violence Policy Center (VPC). For its investigation, the VPC obtained records filed in 21 federal firearms smuggling prosecutions in Arizona, California, Nevada, and Texas between February 2006 and February 2009. For a copy of the VPC investigation, "Indicted: Types of Firearms and Methods of Gun Trafficking from the United States to Mexico as Revealed in U.S. Court Documents," please see

"The documents we examined make absolutely clear that Mexican gun traffickers are seeking out military-style weapons easily obtained on the U.S. civilian gun market," said VPC Legislative Director Kristen Rand, the study's author. "Many of these guns are imported assault rifles and armor-piercing handguns, underscoring the urgent need for the Obama administration to use its executive powers to strictly enforce existing restrictions on the import of such non-sporting weapons and then begin working with Congress to enact an effective federal assault weapons ban."

In addition to detailed analysis of the more than 500 firearms listed in the smuggling cases reviewed, the report contains excerpts from records that detail the methods by which traffickers exploit weak federal laws in the U.S. to buy guns for Mexican criminals. Among other findings in the report:

o Traffickers seek out semiautomatic assault weapons (42 percent of guns named), armor-piercing handguns (18 percent), and 50 caliber anti-armor sniper rifles (two percent).

o More than 90 percent of the 226 rifles named could be identified as semiautomatic assault rifles, primarily AK-47 and AR-15 variants.

o More than one-third of the guns obtained by traffickers were made by foreign manufacturers.

o At least 70,000 rounds of ammunition were directly involved in the cases.

Rand stated that the federal court records thoroughly refute National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre's recent false claim that the Mexican cartels do not "trifle with paperwork at U.S. gun stores."

"The NRA has received a free ride with its undocumented assertions," Rand said. "Now, for the first time, the American people can see detailed information on the types of military-style firearms illegal traffickers are buying in the United States and shipping to Mexican criminals. This is merely a snapshot of the kind of detailed information about tens of thousands of smuggled guns that the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives has in its files but no longer releases to the public or our elected representatives on Capitol Hill."

The Violence Policy Center (VPC) works to stop gun death and injury through research, education, advocacy, and collaboration. Founded in 1988 by Executive Director Josh Sugarmann, a native of Newtown, Connecticut, the VPC informs the public about the impact of gun violence on their daily lives, exposes the profit-driven marketing and lobbying activities of the firearms industry and gun lobby, offers unique technical expertise to policymakers, organizations, and advocates on the federal, state, and local levels, and works for policy changes that save lives. The VPC has a long and proven record of policy successes on the federal, state, and local levels, leading the National Rifle Association to acknowledge us as "the most effective ... anti-gun rabble-rouser in Washington."