Much is written about the illegal gun trade to Mexico – much less about the Mexican military’s sales to its own police and private security companies of weapons that are imported, mostly from the United States. Private possession of firearms is illegal for almost all individuals in Mexico. But the weapons get through. Here is one report on how it happens.
Originally published in La Jornada, 2 February 2016. Translation by AFSC.
By Alonso Urrutia
Between 2010 and October 2015, the most violent period in Mexican memory, the country’s military sold 255,712 non-military weapons of various kinds (pistols, rifles, shotguns, among others) to police agencies, private companies, and the public in general, including sport shooters, hunters, and for land protection and home).
During the same period, the military’s income from these sales – through the Directorate for Weapons and Munitions Trade of the General Office of Military Industry – reached 570 million pesos [about US$34 million]. Income from these sales to the Mexican military – known by its Spanish acronym as Sedena – more than doubled during the period, from 58 million pesos in 2010 to 127.6 million in 2014.
More than 98% of weapons sold – 254,081 - were imported by the Mexican military, according to the data obtained through a formal request. Only 4,761 were produced in Mexico.
Sales to Private Parties
The report disclosed by the Defense Secretariat on importation and sales of both long and short firearms to private parties, including companies, has two parts. Over-the-counter sales to the general public (such as sport shooters, hunters and those seeking home and property protection) amounted to 53,983 between 2010 and 2015, about 20% of the total sold.
Nevertheless, the military’s sales to private security companies during the period, amounting to 45,255 weapons in all, have gradually increased from 3,139 in 2010 to 13,875 in 2014. About 40% of all the weapons sold by Sedena were to private parties.
Weapons sales to state police agencies show 156,419 arms acquired by local police, including 16,759 weapons to Mexico state and 10,846 to Michoacán (most of those in 2010). Some states bought few weapons during the period: Campeche purchased the least, only 698 guns, while Colima acquired 1,096 and Yucatán 1,217.
It is notable that in some of the areas with the highest levels of violence the public expenditures on weapons were low. These included Guerrero (2,883 weapons) and Tamaulipas (2,057 weapons). In Chihuahua, which in 2010-2011 had the highest homicide rate in the country, especially in Ciudad Juárez, the gun purchases have delined substantially. While in 2010 the state bought 2,531 guns, in 2014 there were only 413.
At the other extreme, following Mexico State and Michoacán, Mexico City bought 9,349 guns; Jalisco, 8,798; and Nuevo León, 8,120.
See also “Supplying the World’s Third Most Deadly War” by John Lindsay-Poland, in Huffington Post.