Visualizing Guns Sales to Mexico Police

The Stop US Arms to Mexico project produced the Mexico Police Firearms Databases. The datasets are the end result of digitizing 8,200 pages of receipts for firearms purchased by Mexico police. We merged the data set with US records from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), for firearms manufactured in the US. From the ATF, we identified the street address, and coordinates for the manufacturer location. For international locations, we added centroid coordinates by country. With the attributes SCoordinates (start location) and ECoordinates (end location), it is possible to use Palladio, an exploratory digital mapping tool from Stanford’s Humanities + Design Lab, to explore the Mexico Police Firearms Database digitally.

Our appended version of the Mexico Police Firearms Database for exploration in Palladio is available here:

To use Palladio, you can visit the website: https://hdlab.stanford.edu/palladio-app/#/upload.

After loading the data, it was necessary to change Fecha to Date, and to verify that / characters were used in the formatting. Then, in the map tab of Palladio, we added a New Layer, with Source Places (SCoordinates) and Target Places (ECoordinates). Figure 1 (below) illustrates the flows depicted in the data set.

Figure. 1 Visualization of gun flows from manufacturers to Mexico Police, 2006-2018

Figure 1 represents 5,495 records of transactions where both start and end coordinates were present. Over 300,000 items were recorded in the receipts, most of which were firearms, though some other forms of equipment and explosives were included. Palladio exploration tools proved valuable in helping identify when and where firearms were produced for Mexico police, and when and where transfers were made to Mexico.

Figure 2. Guns received by Mexico state and year

Figure 2, above, demonstrates that Mexico Estado received the most weapons, 35,919, and combined, 2009 represented the year with the most receipts, almost double any other year reported. Over a dozen manufacturers produced weapons purchased by Mexico police that year, though US sales were the highest. All years combined, the US is the most commonly cited origin of Mexico police guns, provided by a number of suppliers. However, Beretta (Italy) is the most commonly cited manufacturer, and, when taken together, Europe is a greater supplier of guns to Mexico police than the United States.

As observed in the report, “Deadly Trade: How European and Israeli Arms Exports are Accelerating Violence in Mexico,” Mexico is unique because “[t]he Mexican Army holds sole legal authority to import firearms into Mexico, and to transfer firearms to police agencies, private security companies, and private individuals” (6).

[Please note that the ATF records, appended to the Mexico Police Firearms Databases are for their annual transactions reported in the Annual Firearms Manufacturing and Export Report (AFMER), and they are not a reflection of the individual transaction with Mexico Police. These values are intended for comparison with total annual transactions.]

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