WASHINGTON - In 2023, there were 77,813 outlets in the United States where guns could be purchased legally. That is a number similar to the combined amount of McDonald’s, Burger King, Subway, and Wendy’s restaurants in the entire United States.

In Mexico, on the other hand, there are only two centers for legally acquiring firearms, both administered by the Secretariat of National Defense.

Still, the most conservative studies estimate there are 17 million firearms circulating illegally in Mexico, and the country’s Foreign Ministry calculated two million weapons were trafficked in the last decade.

Weapons in Mexico have not only served to kill. Their most profound impact is that they have functioned as vectors for the expansion of criminal networks in the region, leaving the authorities facing a very different criminal problem than it did 15 years ago.

Firearms have empowered organized crime groups and challenged the state’s ability to deal with them. EL PAÍS took an in-depth look at the issue and the factors that feed the river of steel flowing over the border.