ATF is deploying its resources strategically
on the Southwest Border to deny firearms, the “tools of the
trade,” to criminal organizations in Mexico and along the
border, and to combat firearms-related violence affecting
communities on both sides of the border. In partnership with
other U.S. agencies and with the Government of Mexico, ATF
refined its Southwest Border strategy. ATF developed Project
Gunrunner to stem the flow of firearms into Mexico and thereby
deprive the narcotics cartels of weapons. The initiative seeks
to focus ATF’s investigative, intelligence and training resources
to suppress the firearms trafficking to Mexico and stem the
firearms-related violence on both sides of the border.
Firearms tracing, in particular the expansion of the eTrace
firearms tracing system, is a critical component of Project
Gunrunner in Mexico. ATF recently deployed eTrace technology
in U.S. consulates in Monterrey, Hermosillo and Guadalajara,
with six additional deployments to the remaining U.S. consulates
in Mexico scheduled by March 2008. ATF has conducted discussions
with the government of Mexico regarding the decentralization
of the firearms tracing process to deploy Spanish-language
eTrace to other Mexico agencies.
In the past two years, ATF has seized thousands of firearms
headed to Mexico. Trends indicate the firearms illegally crossing
the U.S.-Mexico border are becoming more powerful. ATF has
analyzed firearms seizures in Mexico from FY 2005-07 and identified
the following weapons most commonly used by drug traffickers:
· 9mm pistols;
· .38 Super pistols;
· 5.7mm pistols;
· .45-caliber pistols;
· AR-15 type rifles; and
· AK-47 type rifles.
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Most of the firearms violence in Mexico is perpetrated by
drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) who are vying for control
of drug trafficking routes to the United States and engaging
in turf battles for disputed distribution territories. Hundreds
of Mexican citizens and law enforcement personnel have become
casualties of the firearms-related violence. DTOs operating
in Mexico rely on firearms suppliers to enforce and maintain
their illicit narcotics operations. Intelligence indicates
these criminal organizations have tasked their money laundering,
distribution and transportation infrastructures reaching into
the United States to acquire firearms and ammunition. These
Mexican DTO infrastructures have become the leading gun trafficking
organizations operating in the southwest U.S.
ATF has dedicated approximately 100 special agents and 25
industry operations investigators to the SWB initiative over
the past two years. ATF has recently assigned special agents
to Las Cruces, N.M., and Yuma, Ariz. These assignments are
part of a broad plan to increase the strategic coverage and
disrupt the firearms trafficking corridors operating along
Cases referred for prosecution under Project Gunrunner.
FY 2006 Cases w/Defendants – 122 Defendants referred for prosecution-
FY 2007 Cases w/Defendants – 187 Defendants referred for prosecution-
Special agents have been deployed to Monterrey to support
the work of the attachés in the ATF Mexico Office and assist
Mexican authorities in their fight against firearms related
violence. Three additional ATF intelligence research specialists
and one investigative analyst are planned for the El Paso
Intelligence Center (EPIC) to support Project Gunrunner, along
with one intelligence research specialist in each of the four
field divisions on the southwest border (Phoenix, Dallas,
Houston and Los Angeles).
Firearm tracing intelligence is critical because it allows
ATF and its partners to identify trafficking corridors, patterns
and schemes as well as traffickers and their accomplices.
Firearms tracing helps identify firearms straw purchasers,
the traffickers, trafficking networks and patterns, thus allowing
law enforcement to target and dismantle the infrastructure
supplying firearms to the DTOs in Mexico.
ATF conducts firearms seminars with federal firearms licensees,
commonly referred to as licensed gun dealers, to educate the
firearms industry on straw purchasers and gun trafficking.
More than 3,700 industry members attended outreach events
in SWB divisions in FY 2007.