WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and U.S. Representative Gregory Meeks (D-NY-05), Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, today released the following joint statement after the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released an update of its April 2021 report on efforts to combat firearms trafficking from the United States across the southern border. According to this new report, of the approximately 27,000 firearms that were recovered in criminal investigations in four Central American countries from 2015 to 2019 and that were submitted to ATF for tracing, GAO found that approximately 40 percent were sourced back to the U.S.
“Under the last Administration, firearms trafficking across our southern border persisted at unacceptable levels. GAO’s updated report confirms that Congress must act with urgency to address this challenge. However, this report makes equally clear that more must be done to collect adequate data to help stop the flow of weapons from the U.S. to Central America—and that starts with inter-agency coordination.”
In 2019, Durbin sent a letter to GAO requesting that they update a 2016 report on the illicit trafficking of U.S. firearms to Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala, and that they expand their report to cover the other Northern Triangle countries of Honduras and El Salvador. In response to requests made by Durbin and Meeks, GAO issued an updated report on trafficking to Mexico in April 2021; Tuesday’s report expanded their analysis to the remaining four countries.
In response to this new report, Durbin sent a letter yesterday calling on U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to promptly analyze and address the trafficking of U.S.-sourced firearms that fuels criminal violence in Central America.
“High levels of gun violence in Central America have devastated local communities, created regional instability, and contributed to northward migration to the U.S.,” Durbin wrote. “While GAO was able to assemble important findings for its report, it noted repeatedly that the information was significantly lacking… the GAO report notes that ‘officials at [ICE and ATF] said their agencies would be able to provide such analysis, based on their data and expertise, if asked to do so.’ Please consider this letter as a request to do so.”
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