The ATF's statistic has been controversial since it was first cited two years ago. (At that time the number was even higher, at around 90 percent. It may have dropped now because more guns are getting traced today).
Nonetheless, it only accounts for guns seized in Mexico, and of those, the ones that the Mexican government submits for tracing. Many see that as an incomplete set of data, leading them to dismiss the statistic as inaccurate.
“It is completely misleading. There is a huge population of guns that Mexicans confiscated that they don’t submit to trace to the ATF,” says Robert Farago, the managing editor of the website The Truth about Guns.
Still, it is estimated that about 30 percent of weapons seized in Mexico are submitted for tracing. And whether it is 90 percent or 70 percent that come from the US within that pool, that is still a large number of American guns circulating in Mexico.
Mr. Diaz argues in the report The Militarization of the US Civilian Firearms Market that those guns are increasingly modeled after the military. He says that semiautomatic assault rifles, 50 caliber anti-armor sniper rifles, and armor-piercing handguns are the “weapons of choice” for drug organizations in Mexico.
Mr. Farago does not doubt that military-style weapons are in the hands of drug traffickers in Mexico. But he says that is because weapons from the Mexican military are seeping into drug traffickers’ hands.
Traffickers also acquire military weapons from other countries.