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Armed Violence in Mexico Fact Sheet 2016

Desarma Mexico

Guns are killing Mexicans, not  drugs. Mexico has restrictive firearms legislation and has signed all international instruments to address illicit trafficking. This has not prevented the proliferation of high-caliber weapons in the country and the rise in murders committed by firearms.

Quality of life in Mexico has deteriorated because of violence, and firearms have played a central role in this situation: from 2001 to 2010, 37% of the intentional murders were committed by firearms, this percentage rose to 56% from 2011 to 2016 (June). In 16 years, more than 110,000 people have died in the country because of armed violence. (1) This is twice the population of Saint Kitts and Nevis.

Homicides are not the only manifestation of armed violence: other crimes committed with guns have also risen in the last years. It is estimated that in 2011, 63% of the crimes committed with any kind of weapon were committed with firearms, while in 2015 this percentage rose to 67%, accounting for more than 5 million crimes in the country. (2)

It is impossible to address this problem without considering the origin of the illegal firearms that are seized in Mexico and submitted for tracing. The ATF reports that between 2009 and 2014, 70% of traced fireams recovered at crime scenes came from the United States. (3) On the other hand, the Violence Policy Center reviewed 21 court cases of firearms trafficking between 2007 and 2009 and revealed that 63% of the 492 weapons analyzed were either assault weapons (209; 42 percent), armor-piercing handguns (88; 18 percent), or anti-armor 50 caliber sniper rifles (11; two percent). (4) And finally, the Attorney General of Mexico reported half of the recovered weapons were AK-47 and AR-15. (5)

Decisions that may seem local have broader effects. Several academic studies have linked the existence of less restrictive legislation in the United States with the rise of armed violence in Mexico, especially the end of the Assault Weapons Ban in 2004 and the prohibition on importing this kind of firearm from other countries. (6) More than 40,000 Mexicans and several members of the U.S. Congress have also linked the lack of gun control laws with violence in Mexico. They made specific petitions in 2009, 2011 and 2016 with no success.

North and South the Rio Grande, guns are undermining the right to life, freedom and security. The solution and the efforts for a peaceful society must come from both sides of the border.

This fact sheet was produced by Paulina Arriaga of Desarma México.

 Homicides in Mexico by year

Types of weapons

Firearms recovered

Homicides in Mexico graph


(1) Executive Secretary of the National System of Public Security, Criminal Statistics (SESNSP),

(2) INEGI, National Survey on Victimization and Perception of Public Security (ENVIPE) 2012, 2016.

(3) ATF,  Mexico, January 1, 2009, December 31, 2014,

(4) Violence Policy Center, Types of Firearms and Methods of Gun Trafficking from the United States to Mexico as Revealed in U.S. Court Documents, April 2009.

(5) Attorney General of Mexico (PGR),

(6) Aridrajit Dube, Cross-Border Spillover: U.S. Gun Laws and Violence in Mexico, Department of Economic and Politics, Working paper at New York University, 2012; Luke Chicoine, Exporting the Second Amendement: U.S. Assault Weapons and the Homicide Rate in Mexico, University of Notre Dame, Draft 2011; David Pérez y Eugenio Weigend, “Más armas, más delitos, más homicidios”, Nexos, septiembre 2013.

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