U.S. Department of Justice
Office of the Inspector GeneralEvaluation and Inspections Division
WORKING DRAFTEXECUTIVE SUMMARY
This review by the Department of Justice (Department) Office of theInspector General (OIG) examined the impact of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF) implementation of ProjectGunrunner on the illicit trafficking of guns from the United States toMexico.Violence associated with organized crime and drug trafficking inMexico is widespread, resulting in tens of thousands of deaths.In part because Mexican law severely restricts gun ownership, drugtraffickers have turned to the United States as a primary source of weapons,and these drug traffickers routinely smuggle guns from the United Statesinto Mexico. According to ATF officials, approximately 90 percent of theguns recovered in Mexico that have been traced were initially sold in theUnited States.
The criminal organizations responsible for smuggling guns to Mexicoare typically also involved in other criminal enterprises, such as drugtrafficking, human trafficking, and cash smuggling. This requires ATF to work with other federal entities, as well as with state and local lawenforcement partners, in sharing intelligence, coordinating law enforcementactivities, and building cases that can be prosecuted. To help combat firearms trafficking into Mexico, ATF began ProjectGunrunner as a pilot project in Laredo, Texas, in 2005 and expanded it as anational initiative in 2006. Project Gunrunner is also part of theDepartment’s broader Southwest Border Initiative, which seeks to reducecross-border drug and firearms trafficking and the high level of violenceassociated with these activities on both sides of the border.In June 2007, ATF published a strategy document,
Southwest Border Initiative: Project Gunrunner
(Gunrunner strategy), outlining four key
William McMahon, Deputy Assistant Director for Field Operations, ATF, before theCommittee on Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border, Maritime, and GlobalCounterterrorism, U.S. House of Representatives, concerning “Combating Border Violence: The Role of Interagency Coordination in Investigations” (July 16, 2009),http://homeland.house.gov/Hearings/index.asp?ID=205 (accessed August 25, 2010). Seealso, GAO,
Firearms Trafficking: U.S. Efforts to Combat Arms Trafficking to Mexico Face Planning and Coordination Challenges,
GAO-09-709 (June 2009), 15.