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Leaked Data Reveals How the American Gun Industry Profits from Cartel Violence in Mexico

USA Today released a major story today revealing the US gun shops and smugglers responsible for nearly 80,000 firearms illegally trafficked into Mexico.

The “Sinaloa, CJNG, Del Norte and Gulf cartels [have] an insatiable appetite for American guns,” according to Alamdar Hamdani, US Attorney for the Southern District of Texas. According to the article:

“Despite efforts to stem the flow, these American firearms are smuggled south as part of the cycle of Latin-American narcotics headed north. The violence in Central America fueled, in part, by guns also has contributed to the migration crisis at the US border.”

USA Today’s analysis identifies a handful of gun dealers who are collectively responsible for more than 1,000 guns recovered in Mexico, including multiple big box retailers near the border. One gun store in Pearland, Texas, conducted more than $1 million in cash sales in 2019 and “sold six Barrett .50 caliber rifles to an unemployed American that were later recovered in the Mexican home of a high-level cartel leader.”

Such data is as troubling as it is rare. Why? The government keeps it secret. As USA Today explains, “Gun trace data is kept out of public view by a rider to a Congressional bill known as the ‘Tiahrt Amendment,’ passed in 2003 to shield gun shops from scrutiny.” 

Retailers who rake in drug money are further protected from accountability by the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which provides the gun industry with broad immunity. (GIFFORDS Law Center continues to peel away at those unjust protections.)


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Thankfully, President Biden strengthened laws regarding gun trafficking and straw purchasing when he signed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act in 2022. But there is more Congress must do to stop the flow of illegal guns to violent drug cartels, including:

  • Defeat misguided Republican efforts to repeal ATF’s new rule expanding background checks.
  • Repeal the Tiahrt Amendment, which protects bad actors in the gun industry by hiding information from the American public.
  • Repeal gun industry immunity and pass gun industry accountability laws to ensure irresponsible businesses in the gun industry can be held accountable for actions that contribute to violence.

The gun industry’s greed and callous disregard for human life has impacted every corner of our country, and now we have further confirmation the American gun violence crisis is also enabling violence beyond our borders. It’s long past time for Congress to stop giving the gun industry special treatment when it comes to public safety.



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