According to Mexico's Defense Department, criminal organizations are equipping themselves with firearms that are between 20 and 30 years old. The government says this casts doubt on the claim that the gangs are better armed than the security forces.
The Mexican Army seized over 130,000 firearms since 2006, the majority of which were fabricated in the 1980s and 1990s, Excelsior reports. These include makeshift weapons that were modified or repaired using old parts from other guns, making some of the weapons potentially too dangerous to fire.
Most of the seized weapons originated in the US, the report says.
InSight Crime Analysis
According to the Defense Department (SEDENA), the condition of the weapons used by criminal groups contradicts the claim that they are better equipped than the armed forces. But it may be in the interest of Mexico's gangs to use older weapons, which are more difficult to trace. Especially considering the importance of the US as a source of guns for Mexican organizations, buying older guns or modifying weapons with older parts makes it more difficult to track where the weapon was purchased. This would protect the trafficking networks which move weapons across the border.
The weapons which arm criminal groups sometimes are "recycled" back from military and police stockpiles in Mexico, another reason why it would be in their interest to use guns that are harder to trace.
State police have previously filed formal complaints that they are out-gunned by criminal organizations. Groups like the Zetas are often equipped with sniper rifles, armor-piercing pistols known as "cop killers," AK-47 knockoffs, and even grenades. Considering the range and sheer numbers of weapons apparently avaliable to criminal groups, the SEDENA's argument that the usage of older weapons is a sign of weakness may not be entirely sound.
That fact that criminal groups are using older and presumably more affordable guns could suggest they are facing dwindling financial resources. But picking older guns over newer models could also allow these organizations to maintain large stockpiles.