EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – The mayor of Juarez, Mexico, insists his city is safe despite a spate of recent mass killings he says were drug-related.

The city has recorded six violent attacks this year in which four or more people were killed. On Sunday, armed assailants entered a gated, two-story home in the Rinconada de las Torres neighborhood in Juarez, killing three men and two women.

All of the victims are between 20 and 40 years old and remain unidentified, the Chihuahua Attorney General’s Office said in a statement. However, local news media reported at least some are related to Arturo Arellano Corral, a.k.a. “El Freak,” a convicted hitman for the Sinaloa cartel. Arellano allegedly hung himself inside his prison cell at Cereso 3 prison on May 27, El Diario reported.

A 2009 joint communique from the Mexican Defense Ministry and the Ministry of Foreign Relations describes the capture of Arellano and an alleged accomplice during a gunfight with rival gang members outside a Juarez hospital. The statement says Arellano and the other man, Salomon Bolivar Villa, allegedly confessed to having “executed” 45 members of La Linea, or the Juarez cartel, on orders from the Sinaloa cartel.

Other recent massacres in Juarez include the deaths of three just-freed alleged Artistas Asesinos gang members and three of their relatives, including minors, and the murder of nine people who attended the funeral of a gang member who allegedly died of a drug overdose in jail.

“These violent incidents we had in recent months are directly related to issues of drug sales and organized crime. In other words, this has to do with gangs (fighting) among themselves, not against the people,” Mayor Cruz Perez Cuellar said in a news conference Monday.

The mayor said “ordinary” people come and go in complete safety throughout his city and mentioned large sporting events that go on without incident.

“We have to say that people who are focused on their work (for the most part) can do it in safety. There is no loss of control, we (the authorities) have the control,” Perez Cuellar said at the news conference. “We are keeping our guard up because (of these events), but we have to say it clearly: what is happening is not affecting the ordinary working citizen.”

Juarez has recorded 439 homicides in 2022, including 19 in the first six days of June.

U.S. guns used in Mexican massacres

Mexico has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the world and a single weapons factory. Those wishing to purchase a gun for home defense must get a permit from the Mexican army. U.S. residents crossing the border with a gun face immediate jail time.

Still, Chinese and Russian-made AK-47s and American-made AR-15s figure prominently in most drug massacres in Mexico.

Preliminary findings by the Chihuahua state police point to AR-15 rifles being used in Sunday’s massacre in Juarez.

Tony Payan, director of the Baker Institute for Public Policy U.S.-Mexico Center at Rice University, said the drug cartels are much better armed since the U.S. federal assault weapons ban expired in 2004.

“When that act expired, these kinds of weapons began to proliferate not just in the U.S., but in other countries, with Mexico being a major client,” Payan told Border Report. “What that does is it gives the criminals greater fire power. This and Mexico’s inability to stop the guns clearly fuel the kind of violence and killings that we see in Mexico.”

The Mexican government has sued American gun manufacturers in U.S. federal court alleging negligence in the sale of weapons that end up in Mexico.

Payan said the use of American guns by criminals predates the assault weapons ban, but believes Mexico has made the case that gun-smuggling from the United States is “one of the variables” that contributes to the carnage.