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Back to Police Weapons

I.  Introduction

Mexico is a federal republic comprised of thirty-one states plus a Federal District.[1]  There are state and municipal police forces in each of these jurisdictions.[2]  In addition, there are police forces at the federal level, the most prominent of which is the Federal Police, which is under the supervision of Mexico’s Department of Governance.[3]  Mexico’s federal and state governments contribute funds for a variety of police-related initiatives at the state level, such as recruiting, training, equipment, telecommunications, and facilities.[4]

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II.  Police Weapons and Equipment

Article 11 of Mexico’s Law on Firearms and Explosives provides a list of the weapons that only Mexico’s military may use.[5]  This list includes certain revolvers, pistols, rifles, shotguns, machine guns, and ammunition for these weapons, as well as cannons, artillery devices, tanks, grenades, ships, submarines and seaplanes for naval combat, war aircraft, and generally, all weapons and ammunition exclusively designed for war.[6]  Mexico’s Department of Defense, however, may authorize the use of war weapons by government agencies at the federal, state, or municipal level provided that the need for the use of such weapons is justified.[7]  Mexico’s Law on Firearms and Explosives does not provide a list of the weapons that civilian government agencies currently have.

Mexico’s General Law on the National Public Safety System provides that authorities at the federal, state, and municipal levels must register weapons and ammunition in their possession in a National Registry of Weapons and Equipment.[8]  This Registry does not appear to be publicly available, and the General Law on the National Public Safety System does not provide specific information on the type of weapons that police forces currently have.  Research using other relevant sources did not reveal specific information on the weapons currently used by the Federal Police.

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III.  Rules on the Use of Police Weapons

Mexico’s Federal Police may use their weapons in a rational way in order to defend civilians and their rights, but only when other means are not effective.[9] 

When the use of firearms is inevitable, the Federal Police should

  • act in a way that is appropriate for the particular situation,
  • limit damages and injuries,
  • respect and protect human lives,
  • provide prompt medical assistance to injured persons, and
  • notify the relatives of the injured immediately.[10]

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IV.  Public Confidence

A recent report published by the Washington Office on Latin America argues that Mexico’s police are corrupt, abusive, and disrespectful of human rights.  The report states that if this problem is not properly addressed by Mexican authorities, “a vicious pattern of police abuse and a climate of mistrust between the police and the population” will be perpetuated.[11]

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Gustavo Guerra
Senior Foreign Law Specialist
September 2014

[1] Constitución Política de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos [Political Constitution of the Mexican United States], as amended through July 2014, arts. 40, 43, Diario Oficial de la Federación [D.O.], Feb. 5, 1917, available on the website of Mexico’s House of Representatives, at Biblio/pdf/1_07jul14.pdf.

[2] Id. arts. 21, 115(III)(h), 115(VII).

[3] Dirección General de Comunicación Social, Policia Federal, Comisión Nacional de Seguridad, http://www.;jsessionid=y2L1JWqN20pHWLND3mThlQMXprscv3qn8djTccygg6nP1hVdnGvf!-1956886524?__c=7f9 (last updated Apr. 15, 2013).

[4] Fondo de Aportaciones para la Seguridad Pública: ¿Qué es?, Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública, (last updated Feb. 15, 2013).

[5] Ley Federal de Armas de Fuego y Explosivos [Federal Law on Firearms and Explosives], as amended through Jan. 2004, art. 11, D.O., Jan. 11, 1972,

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Ley General del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública [General Law on the National Public Safety System], as amended through Oct. 2013, art. 124(II), D.O., Jan. 2, 2009, LGSNSP.pdf.

[9] Acuerdo 04/2012 del Secretario de Seguridad Pública, por el que se emiten los lineamientos generales para la regulación del uso de la fuerza pública por las instituciones policiales de los órganos desconcentrados en la Secretaría de Seguridad Pública [Directive 4/2012 Providing General Guidelines for the Use of Public Force by Federal Police Forces] arts. 16, 19, D.O., Apr. 23, 2012, available on an online legal repository maintained by Mexico’s Department of Governance, at Archivo=70732&ambito=emisor&idEmisor=6&idEspecifico=6&poder=Ejecutivo (click on “Descargar”).

[10] Id. art. 18.

[11] Maureen Meyer, Mexico’s Police: Many Reforms, Little Progress (May 8, 2014), available on the Washington Office on Latin America website, at Many%20Reforms%2C%20Little%20Progress.pdf.