This is the full text of the ATF release. I guess you could say it’s a guest post. We really want to get out of this field and back into the gun technical stuff that is our strengths, but we also have the chance to apply some MBA-fu to the stats and may be doing that. That’s what’s messed up our schedule just a bit.

Without further ado, your tax dollars in action:

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

News Release – Public Affairs Division – Washington, DC

The Violent Crime Bureau


WASHINGTON – Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) today announced the release of trace information for firearms recovered in Mexico and submitted to ATF for tracing. Trace information shows that between calendar years 2007 and 2011 the Government of Mexico recovered and submitted more than 99,000 firearms to ATF for tracing. Of those firearms more than 68,000 were U.S.-sourced. More complete information will be available on the ATF website.

U.S.-sourced firearms are guns determined by ATF to be manufactured in the United States or legally imported into the United States by a federal firearms licensee. Since 2007, trace data shows a trend in recovered and submitted crime guns from Mexico shifting from pistols and revolvers to rifles. Law enforcement in Mexico now report that certain types of rifles, such as the AK and AR variants with detachable magazines, are used more frequently to commit violent crime by drug trafficking organizations.

ATF is working with its law enforcement partners at every level and the Government of Mexico to keep firearms out of the hands of gang members and criminal enterprises. The Mexico trace data is the result of information provided by the Government of Mexico to ATF about crime guns recovered in Mexico and submitted for tracing.

Firearms tracing provides information on the movement of a firearm from its first sale by a manufacturer or importer through the distribution chain in an attempt to identify the first retail purchaser. This information provides investigative leads for criminal investigations.

The Mexico trace data is not the result of any criminal investigation, or investigations, initiated by law enforcement in the United States.

ATF’s National Tracing Center (NTC) is the nation’s only crime gun tracing facility. The NTC provides critical information that assists domestic and international law enforcement agencies solve firearms crimes, detect firearms trafficking and identify trends with respect to intrastate, interstate and international movement of crime guns. The NTC traced more than 319,000 crime guns in calendar year 2011.

ATF is dedicated to reducing firearms trafficking and firearms-related violent crime on both sides of the border.

ATF will also release trace information for firearms recovered in Canada and the Caribbean and submitted to ATF for tracing between calendar years 2007 and 2011.

For more information about ATF and its programs go to

Weaponsman Analysis

First, thanks to the ATF for publishing this information. Transparency is necessary for a public safety agency in a representative republic.

Second, one very important note is that these are traces on weapons submitted for tracing. In our experience with overseas police agencies, they submit weapon for tracing if they believe that the weapon has a US nexus. This includes obviously American-made weapons like a Colt M16A2 or a Smith & Wesson pistol, and weapons that bear US import marks (weapons imported to the USA legally must be marked with the licensed importer’s name, city, and state).

We’re going to have to consider what they mean by “The Mexico trace data is not the result of any criminal investigation, or investigations, initiated by law enforcement in the United States.” (Emphasis ATF’s). Does this mean that ATF and other US law-enforcement provided guns are not included? We know that ATF furnished some 3,000 guns in about one year under one operation alone, some of which were recovered at crime scenes in Mexico and the USA.

The numbers of traced guns are interesting: 68,000 from Mexico over five years, versus 319,000 successful Domestic traces. That’s ~14,000 a year from Mexico (although we’d bet there’s a strong growth trend in that number, it’s not an even year-to-year figure). Another 31,000 guns that the Mexicans thought would trace in the USA didn’t.

Without knowing more figures — for example, how many weapons total did Mexican authorities recover per year and in this whole period? How many guns submitted to ATF in the USA failed to trace? We need the missing numerators and denominators to do much of anything with the numbers. We also need some granularity on the numbers. We’ll see if we get it.

UPDATE: The ATF has provided data on Mexican and Canadian gun traces that are very interesting. There is only one year of Caribbean data at this juncture. You can find the files with other ATF stats at and rest assured we’ll be getting what we can out of them. Unfortunately they’re PDF dumps of PowerPoint summary data, not much in the way of crosstab potential. Advocacy, not information, unfortunately.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized on by Hognose.

About Hognose

Former Special Forces 11B2S, later 18B, weapons man. (Also served in intelligence and operations jobs in SF).