ATF intended to stem the flow of firearms into Mexico

ATF Agent (Photo Google)

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) National Tracing Center (NTC) is the nation’s only crime gun tracing facility. As such, the NTC provides critical information that helps 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. For calendar year (CY) 2009, the NTC traced over 354,000 firearms; CY 2010, over 285,000 firearms; CY 2011, over 319,000 firearms; CY 2012, over 332,000 firearms; CY 2013, over 336,000 firearms; and CY 2014 over 351,000 firearms. Over this time period the NTC has traced firearms for the United States and 127 countries, including Mexico.


Firearms tracing is the systematic tracking of 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 in order to provide investigative leads for criminal investigations. After the firearm is recovered and the identifiers are forwarded to the NTC, ATF contacts the manufacturer or importer to ascertain the sale or transfer of the firearm. ATF will attempt to contact all ensuing Federal firearms licensees (wholesale/retail) in the distribution chain until a purchaser is identified or the trace process cannot continue due to a lack of accurate or incomplete information on the trace request or in the Federal firearms licensee’s records. The success of a trace result, whether domestic or international, relies upon the accuracy of the supplied firearm identifiers. The necessary identifiers for a trace include manufacturer, importer (if applicable), model, caliber and serial number.


This report relates only to firearms recovered in Mexico and traced by ATF. The firearm trace results are based upon the supplied firearm identifiers on the Mexico trace requests. The Mexican trace data in this report is organized by the calendar year in which the firearm was recovered, not the year in which the trace was initiated. For example, if a firearm was recovered in 2014 but the trace was not initiated until 2015, the data will be organized in the year of recovery, 2014. Organization by recovery date provides valuable investigative leads as well as more specific trend data. Therefore, using this example, if a firearm for which a trace is initiated in later years is determined to have been recovered in 2014, the raw trace numbers for 2014 will increase in subsequent trace data reports. As a result, the trace numbers for each calendar year may fluctuate, necessitating changes to prior years’ trace numbers in future reports. If a recovery date is not provided for a firearm, trace data for that firearm is organized by the calendar year in which the trace was entered into the Firearms Tracing System by ATF.

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Note that in September 2009, the government of Mexico provided ATF with electronic files containing firearms identifiers and recovery data. The electronic files contained information that initiated over 43,000 firearms traces, excluding duplicates, with most having recovery years ranging from CY 2007 to 2009. Once each trace was initiated, it was organized by the year of recovery. With the influx of trace data from these electronic files, the number of firearms listed as recovered and traced in 2008 to 2009 increased from previous releases of information.


ATF Agent (Photo Google)
ATF Agent (Photo Google)

Analytical Criteria Used to Compile the Mexico Trace Statistics 

All of the attached trace statistics had the following selection criteria in common:

  • Traces with a recovery country of Mexico were included.
  • Traces with a recovery date between January 1, 2009 and December 31, 2014 were included.
  • If a recovery date was not provided, traces with an entered date between January 1, 2009 and December 31, 2014

were included.
• In CY 2009, 98.6% of all Mexico traces listed a recovery date. • In CY 2010, 99.9% of all Mexico traces listed a recovery date. • In CY 2011, 99.5% of all Mexico traces listed a recovery date. • In CY 2012, 98.8% of all Mexico traces listed a recovery date. • In CY 2013, 97.4% of all Mexico traces listed a recovery date. • In CY 2014, 98.9% of all Mexico traces listed a recovery date.

  • Duplicate traces were not included. A duplicate is a trace request for the same recovery of a firearm that was previously traced.
  • All traces may not have been submitted or completed at the time of this analysis.
  • Statistics are based on a query of the Firearms Tracing System on March 10, 2015.

For statistics regarding: