Very interesting study commissioned by the Igarapé Institute (in Brazil) and the University of San Diego's Transborder Institute: The Way of the Gun: Estimating Firearm Traffic Across the U.S.-Mexico Border.
We tackle the challenge of estimating arms trafficking from the U.S. to Mexico differently. We apply a unique GIS-generated county-level panel dataset (1993-1999 and 2010-2012) of Federal Firearms Licenses to sell small arms (FFLs), we create a demand curve for firearms based on the distance by road from the nearest point on the U.S.-Mexico border and official border crossing. We use a time-series negative binomial model paired with a post-estimation population attributable fraction (PAF) estimator. We do so controlling for determinants of domestic demand (e.g., income, political leaning, population density, and spatial auto-correlation). We are able to estimate a total demand for trafficking, both in terms of firearms and dollar sales for the firearms industry.
And they find:
- A significant proportion of U.S. firearm dealers are dependent on Mexican demand: 46.7% (95% C.I.: 39.4 - 52.7%) of U.S. FFLs during 2010-2012 depended for their economic existence on some amount of demand from the U.S.-Mexico firearms trade to stay in business. This percentage has steadily risen from 37.4% (95% C.I.: 28.2 - 45.0%) in 1993;
- A sizeable and growing percentage of US firearms sales are destined for Mexico: 2.2% (between 0.9% and 3.7%) of U.S. domestic arms sales are attributable to the U.S.-Mexico traffic. This percentage is up from roughly 1.75% (between 0.66% and 3.15%) in 1993;
- The volume of firearm crossing the U.S.-Mexican border is higher than previously assumed: 253,000 firearms (between 106,700 and 426,729) were purchased annually to be trafficked over 2010-2012. This number is starkly higher than the 88,000 firearms (between 35,597 and 152,142) trafficked in 1997-1999, during the federal Assault Weapons Ban (AWB);
- The value of firearms sales destined for Mexico are significant and growing appreciably: The trade represented annual revenues of $127.2 million (range: $53.7 - $214.6 million) for the U.S. firearms industry during 2010-2012 - nearly four times higher than during 1997-1999, when the trade ran to just $32.0 million (range: $13.0 - $55.4 million);
- The U.S. and Mexican authorities are seizing a comparatively small number of firearms at the border: Based on seizure reports for 2009, U.S. and Mexico authorities in recent years have been seizing just 14.7% (between 8.7% and 35.0%) of total arms bought with the intention of trafficking them. Specifically, Mexican authorities have seized roughly 12.7% of the total annual trade whilst the United States has intercepted around 2.0%.
Not a fun read, but a necessary one. One serious obstacle is that control of guns in the United States is viewed entirely as a domestic issue, whereas (like immigration) it really is also foreign policy. As the report points out, Mexico has few guns and has tight regulations, so lax laws on the other side of the border carry considerable international consequences. The United States needs to share responsibility for the problem of gun violence in Mexico.
Well worth a few minutes of your time to read.