Gun trafficking to Mexico is a nationwide problem with consequences on both sides of the border. In response, ATF implemented Project Gunrunner in 2006 as a comprehensive strategy to reduce firearms and explosives related violent crime associated with Mexican criminal organizations operating in the U.S. and Mexico by preventing these organizations from unlawfully acquiring and trafficking firearms and explosives. Through Project Gunrunner, ATF works in conjunction with its domestic and international law enforcement partners to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the firearms and explosives trafficking infrastructure of criminal organizations operating in Mexico, along the border, and other areas of the U.S.
Project Gunrunner’s objective is to deny Mexican drug cartels the
tools of the trade, which they employ to murder rival drug traffickers, civilians, as well as political, military, and law enforcement figures in order to strengthen their grip on the lucrative drug and firearms routes into and out of the United States.
The cornerstone of Project Gunrunner is intelligence-led firearms trafficking investigations. This process involves the collection of information from a variety of sources such as Federal Firearms Licensees, ballistic and forensic analysis, and data derived from firearms tracing in addition to traditional intelligence sources and methods. This information is then synthesized, analyzed and appropriate leads are disseminated to ATF field offices for investigative action. The information is also shared with our Federal, State, local and tribal partners, as well as our Mexican law enforcement counterparts, each contributing their unique capabilities and resources, forming a multi-layered, comprehensive approach to disrupting firearms trafficking and drug-related violence.
Project Gunrunner investigations have resulted in the identification and prosecution of firearms trafficking organizations in all parts of the United States, from Minnesota to Florida to all our border states, where ATF criminal intelligence and tracing data has provided valuable leads used in identifying individuals and organizations providing firearms to Mexican criminal enterprises.
In 2009, ATF established several new offices dedicated to Project Gunrunner firearms trafficking investigations in McAllen, Texas, El Centro, California, and Las Cruces, New Mexico, including a satellite office in Roswell, New Mexico, in addition to new Gunrunner teams in Tucson, Arizona and El Paso, Texas. In September 2010, ATF announced plans to expand Project Gunrunner by opening additional Gunrunner offices in Sierra Vista, Arizona, and Brownsville, Texas. Additional expansion plans include the opening of three new offices located in U.S. Consulates in Mexico, as well as adding additional investigative and analytical staff to the ATF Country Office in Mexico City. These steps will allow for more timely and effective collaboration among the various law enforcement partners dedicated to Project Gunrunner.
Today, there are nearly 4,500 active Project Gunrunner investigations throughout the United States. Since its inception in 2006, and through Fiscal Year 2010, ATF’s Project Gunrunner has recommended over 1,100 criminal cases and in excess of 2,500 defendants for prosecution. To date, Project Gunrunner investigations have resulted in the seizure of over 10,000 firearms and nearly one million rounds of ammunition destined for Mexico.
Recovery Act Information
The Southwest Border Initiative — ATF’s Project Gunrunner — $10 million
The Administration’s southwest border initiative will reduce cross border drug and weapons trafficking, and the associated high level of violence occurring on the border between the U.S. and Mexico. The primary role of ATF’s Project Gunrunner in support of this initiative is to stem the illegal trafficking of firearms across the border and to reduce the firearms violence occurring on both sides of the border.
$10 million in ARRA funding is hiring 37 ATF employees to open, staff (via new hire and relocation of senior personnel,) equip, and operate new Project Gunrunner criminal enforcement teams in McAllen, TX; El Centro, CA; and Las Cruces, NM (which includes a subordinate satellite office in Roswell, NM.). Additionally, these funds support the assignment of two special agents to each of the U.S. consulates in Juarez and Tijuana, Mexico to provide direct support to Mexican officials on firearms-trafficking-related issues.
By curtailing the availability of firearms to the Mexican drug cartels, ATF will diminish their ability to export drugs to the U.S. In addition, by removing the guns from the cartel’s lethal resources, ATF will directly affect their ability to operate and concurrently suppress the firearms — related violence that occurs on both sides of the southwest border.
Grand Jury Indicts 17 in Firearms Trafficking Cases
February 17, 2011
PHOENIX — A federal grand jury has unsealed multi-count indictments against 17 defendants in five separate cases of illegally trafficking firearms from the United States to Mexico, United States Attorney for the District of Arizona Dennis Burke announced today.More »
Straw Purchase of Guns Leads to Prison Term for U.S. Citizen
January 5, 2011
(McALLEN, Texas) — A United States citizen, who had resided in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico, has been sentenced to 37 months in federal prison without parole for straw purchasing 13 firearms, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today.More »
Border Contraband Seizures Soar as DHS, ATF Hold Summit in San Diego
November 3, 2009
High-level representatives from three of the federal agencies responsible for combating contraband trafficking along the southern border announced Tuesday that seizures involving illegal drugs, weapons and illicit cash borderwide rose significantly in the latter half of fiscal year 2009, an increase they attribute to stepped up enforcement efforts and increased cooperation. More »
Justice Department Announces Success In Battle Against Firearms Trafficking And Recovery Act Funds To Build On Project Gunrunner
October 1, 2009
Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Acting Director Kenneth E. Melson today announced the results of ATF’s Gun Runner Impact Team (GRIT) initiative, a 120-day deployment of ATF resources to the Houston Field Division to disrupt illegal firearms trafficking by Mexican drug cartels. More »
ATF Announces 7 New Gunrunner Groups and Phoenix Gun Runner Impact Teams’ Successes ATF
September 17, 2010
PHOENIX — Deputy Director Kenneth E. Melson of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) today announced the formation of seven new Project Gunrunner firearms trafficking groups during a news conference in which he and Dennis K. Burke, United States Attorney, District of Arizona, announced the results of ATF's Gun Runner Impact Team (GRIT) initiative, a nearly 100-day deployment of ATF resources to the Phoenix Field Division to disrupt illegal firearms trafficking by Mexican drug trafficking organizations. More »
New Congressional Funding to Enhance Department of Justice Southwest Border Strategy
August 12, 2010
WASHINGTON – Today's passage by Congress of the Border Security Appropriations Bill provides $196 million for the Department of Justice to surge federal law enforcement efforts in high crime areas in the Southwest Border region, announced Acting Deputy Attorney General Gary G. Grindler More »
Prepared Remarks of Kenneth E. Melson, Acting Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, at the Violent Crime and Firearms Trafficking Summit, Albuquerque, NM, June 30, 2009
June 30, 2009
I’ve said this before, but I think it bears repeating: The violent crime we are witnessing on the U.S.–Mexico border is a microcosm of the gun violence plaguing much of America — from urban neighborhoods to communitie’s in our nation’s heartland. More »
Prepared Remarks of H. Marshall Jarrett, Director of the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, at the Violent Crime and Firearms Trafficking Summit, Albuquerque, NM, June 30, 2009
June 30, 2009
It is my pleasure to be here this morning as a part of the United States Attorney community to express our commitment in the battle against violent crime and illegal firearms trafficking. More »
Prepared Remarks of Lanny A. Breuer, Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Division, at the Violent Crime and Firearms Trafficking Summit, Albuquerque, NM, June 30, 2009
June 30, 2009
It is an honor to be among so many dedicated law enforcement professionals. Thank you for your warm welcome. You just heard from my partner at ICE John Morton; we’re all in great hands over there. More »
Prepared Remarks of David Ogden, Deputy Attorney General, at the Violent Crime and Firearms Trafficking Summit, Albuquerque, NM, June 30, 2009
June 30, 2009
Let me begin by welcoming all the law enforcement officers, agents and prosecutors. Thank you for taking the time to come from across the country to participate in this conference. More »
ATF, ICE Update Partnership Agreement to Maximize Investigative Efforts
June 30, 2009
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) updated a memorandum of understanding (MOU) today that clearly establishes how the two agencies will work together on investigations of international firearms trafficking and possession of firearms by illegal aliens. More »
ATF Announces Gun Runner Impact Teams Rollout
April 28, 2009
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Acting Director Kenneth Melson and Special Agent in Charge J. Dewey Webb, Houston Field Division, today announced the arrival of its Gun Runner Impact Teams (GRITs) personnel to the Houston Field Division in support of ATF’s Southwest Border strategy, Project Gunrunner. More »
Acting Director Kenneth Melson’s Remarks for Gun Runner Impact Teams Rollout, ATF Houston Field Division, April 28, 2009
April 28, 2009
For more than 30 years, ATF has been at the frontline in the fight against violent crime. Although I am less than three weeks in the job as Acting Director of this proud federal law enforcement agency — as a career federal prosecutor, I have been well aware of its diverse and important mission. More »
Remarks As Prepared For Delivery By Attorney General Eric Holder At The Mexico / United States Arms Trafficking Conference
April 2, 2009
First, let me express my thanks to Attorney General Medina Mora and Secretary of Government Gomez Mont for making this conference possible. This is my first trip to another country as Attorney General. I wanted to come to Mexico to deliver a single message: We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with you in this fight against the narcotics cartels. The United States shares responsibility for this problem and we will take responsibility by joining our Mexican counterparts in every step of this fight. More »
Fact Sheet: Department of Justice Efforts to Combat Mexican Drug Cartels
April 2, 2009
The increased efforts and reallocation of personnel recently announced by the Department of Justice builds on the foundation of expertise and experience gained from ongoing efforts to combat Mexican drug cartels in the United States and to help Mexican law enforcement battle cartels in its own country. More »
ATF Provides Small Arms Trafficking Training for Mexican Officers
December 31, 2008
On Sept. 8–12, 2008, ATF held a small arms trafficking class for about 40 officers from agencies of the Mexican government, including the Procuraduria General de la Republica de Mexico (the PGR, the equivalent of the U.S. Office of the Attorney General), the Secretariat de Seguridad Publica (the federal police force, the uniformed and investigative branch of the PGR), the army and the navy. More »
Formal Declaration Between U.S., Mexico Governors To Use ATF Project Gunrunner, eTrace Investigative Tool
August 15, 2008
The Border Governors Conference announced a significant partnership to stop the flow of illegal guns into Mexico by utilizing the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) programs called Project Gunrunner and eTrace. More »
ATF Expands Efforts To Combat Illegal Flow Of Firearms Into Mexico
January 16, 2008
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) plans to add additional staff members, including 35 special agents and 15 industry operations investigators, to the southwest border and deploy eTrace technology in nine U.S. consulates in Mexico in an effort to stem the illegal flow of firearms to Mexico as part of Project Gunrunner, ATF Acting Director Michael J. Sullivan and Director Arthur Doty of the El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC) today announced. More »