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Gun Running into Mexico Remains a Huge Problem

<span style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 14.857142448425293px; line-height: 11.428571701049805px;" mce_style="color: #222222; font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 14.857142448425293px; line-height: 11.428571701049805px;">As the gun control debate swirls around issues like background checks and mental health, a new study reveals that gun running into Mexico remains a large-scale problem.</span>

As the gun control debate swirls around issues like background checks and mental health, a new study reveals that gun running into Mexico remains a large-scale problem.

In their report, titled "The Way of the Gun," researchers at the University of San Diego's Trans-Border Institute estimated that as many as 253,000 firearms were purchased in the United States from 2010 to 2012 for the sole purpose of being trafficked across the border into Mexico. The figure is nearly three times the amount (about 88,000 firearms) trafficked between 1997 and 1999, when the federal assault weapons ban was in place.

The Mexican government has long held that lax U.S. gun laws have facilitated the illegal flow of weapons south. Officials say more than 70,000 people have died in cartel-related violence there since 2006, although some human rights groups claim the figure is closer to 100,000. A 2012 Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives report said that about 68,000 of the 99,000 weapons at crime scenes in Mexico since 2007 were traced back to the U.S. The firearms were either manufactured here or legally imported and subsequently smuggled.

The Trans-Border Institute researchers also estimate that about 2.2 percent of weapons purchased in the U.S. are bound for Mexico.

"These findings suggest that the United States is a significant, albeit unintentional, contributor to the global black market in arms and ammunition," writes report co-author Topher McDougal. "It underlines the point that with domestic gun rights come responsibilities. The analysis also suggests that the United States has been negligent in preventing illegal firearms trafficking." 

Included in the study are recommendations to stymie the flow of weapons, including universal background checks and eliminating cash transactions for gun purchases in border states.

There are no specific records of individual gun sales because the ATF is limited in the data it can collect. The Trans-Border researchers reached their estimates by creating a "demand curve" that uses various pieces of geographic information and county-level data on U.S. gun sellers.

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