Promoting Firearms Marking in Latin America and the Caribbean

Fact Sheet
Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs
January 9, 2013

The Organization of American States (OAS) has been actively promoting an initiative to help strengthen the national capacities of OAS member states to combat illicit firearms trafficking in the region. The OAS, through the “Promoting Firearms Marking in Latin America and the Caribbean” program, is providing firearms marking equipment to 25 countries in the region as well as the training necessary for its proper use. The project relies on the financial support of the Government of the United States.

The firearms marking is a process that permanently marks the weapon with unique and identifiable information such as serial number, name of the manufacturer or importer, model, and caliber or gauge. The markings assist law enforcement agencies in tracing the weapons when they are recovered at crime scenes. Although most firearms are marked at the time of manufacture, adding additional markings (such as those identifying the country of import, where the weapon was seized, or where it was retained for official use), facilitate tracing of the weapon. This in turn can help to identify at what point a weapon entered the illicit arms market and/or help to identify the perpetrator of a crime. Marking is therefore a very effective tool for combating the trafficking of firearms in the Hemisphere.

This firearms marking program aspires to strengthen national capacity of participating governments by providing at least one dot-peen type marking machine (and possibly more depending on need) and related training, as well as one laptop computer and software to facilitate record-keeping. As currently configured, the marking machines automatically generate a computer record of all the necessary information to trace each weapon.

25 countries have signed the Cooperation Agreement and received the equipment and training: Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Barbados, Belize, Costa Rica, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, the Bahamas, and Trinidad and Tobago.

As Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and the United States already have the capability to mark firearms, the completion of the OAS program will mean nearly all states in the hemisphere will have this critical tool to combat illicit trafficking.

The OAS originally expected a minimum of 80,000 firearms throughout the hemisphere to be marked in 2012 as a result of this U.S.-funded project. As of January 2013, 250,000 firearms have been marked, exceeding the OAS’s expectations.