LOS ANGELES - Lax U.S. gun regulations are enabling the international trafficking of high-powered weapons and fueling the spread of gun violence in Latin America and the Caribbean, the Council on Foreign Relations argues in a report urging President Obama to take action on initiatives that have foundered in Congress.
More than 70 percent of the 99,000 weapons recovered by Mexican law enforcement since 2007 were traced to U.S. manufacturers and importers, the council report said, citing data from the eTrace program of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The figure for guns of U.S. origin recovered in the Caribbean is over 90 percent, the study noted.
"The flow of high-powered weaponry from the United States to Latin America and the Caribbean exacerbates soaring rates of gun-related violence in the region and undermines U.S. influence in the Western Hemisphere," states the council's policy memo, written by Latin America studies director Julia Sweig.
The ATF statistics, as well as those of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, suggest the escalating flow of assault weapons from the United States is connected with a 30 percent higher rate of per capita gun-related homicides in Latin America than the global average. In Mexico, the U.N. homicide report for 2011 charts a more than tripling of firearms slayings in less than a decade.
Mexico's consul general for Los Angeles, Carlos M. Sada, contends that the share of U.S. weapons recovered in his country from scenes of gun violence are even higher than the eTrace statistics have measured. He puts the guns of U.S. origin at more than 80 percent.
Sweig, in her report for the Council on Foreign Relations, suggested that Obama, in the absence of congressional action, take executive and diplomatic steps to reduce trafficking of firearms throughout the Americas.
The recommended measures include expanding nationwide a federal rule in place since 2011 in California, Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico that requires gun dealers to report sales of more than two semiautomatic rifles to the same person within a five-day period.