Saturday, February 5, 2011

The push for reinterpreting gun laws

Another story this week suggests the Obama administration's anticipated push for new gun control measures may be pegged to regulatory reinterpretation of existing law rather an any serious new legislative push.

The story, from the self-titled Center for Public Integrity, targets the WASR-10 AK-47 variant from Romania. The story says, in part:

"Reliable and powerful, and a bargain at about $500 each, the Romanian-made gun, a semiautomatic version of the iconic Kalashnikov assault weapon, had become popular with the drug cartels in Mexico."

It goes on to say:

"Reports from the Justice Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) show that over the last four years, more than 500 of the WASR-10s imported into the United States by Century were recovered in Mexico after being purchased in the United States. That is the most of any rifle or pistol purchased, recovered and traced during that four-year span, accounting for more than 17% of the total guns recovered, the reports show."

It's a fact some U.S. traded guns have made their way south of the border. But the article's real focus seems to target how government regulators currently interpret rules determining what's a lawful  versus an unlawful firearm.

The article goes on to suggest guns like the WASR-10 could vanish from American retailers if President Obama used executive powers to close perceived loopholes regulating imported firearms. Increasingly, gun control proponents call on the president to bypass Congress and simply initiate tighter gun control.

But before gun violence in Mexico is used to usher in game-changing rules at home, is anyone sure we're getting an accurate picture of the Mexican arms trade? Perhaps we're being sold a perception designed to further restrict law-abiding Americans from obtaining certain types of arms.

Here are a couple of problems with the carefully constructed narrative being sold to the public:

Some guns with a U.S. pedigree are apparently turning up in Mexico after being part of interdiction efforts by ATF.  This raises questions regarding the integrity of those efforts. The Los Angeles Times reports:

In a sign of the cost of widespread U.S. weapons smuggling into Mexico, federal law enforcement sources have confirmed that two guns, part of a series  of purchases being monitored by authorities, were found at the scene of the firefight that killed a U.S. Border Patrol agent in southern Arizona. 

The LA Times identifies the recovered guns as AK-47s, but fails to tell us how many others in the series of  "monitored" purchases may have slipped across the border. Nor do we know how many, if any, of these  monitored weapons are now included in figures touted by the Center for Public Integrity.

It is now widely reported the Senate Judiciary Committee is pursuing information on what may be flawed ATF operations. But beyond ATF and its gun store stings, the argument Mexico's cartels primarily arm themselves through U.S. gun stores raises red flags of its own.

Well-funded cartels with the ability to move illegal drugs and personnel from continent to continent aren't confined to paying retail plus a smuggling bounty to equip their foot soldiers in a piecemeal fashion.

With perhaps hundreds of thousands of military grade AK-47s and other weapons tucked away in arsenals and warehouses in Central and South America, cartels have little need to limit themselves to strip mall gun stores.

The same Center for Public Integrity now concerned over several hundred AK-47s in Mexico previously  reported tens of thousands of AK-47s were smuggled to South America. Those guns came from Jordan, not a gunshow or U.S. retailer. Meanwhile, the Washington Post reported last summer Central American arsenals are being stripped of grenades and guns with the looted inventory showing up in cartel hands. And even Venezuela might be tempted to dump some of its stockpiled AKs or a newly manufactured variant for an appealing price.

Connect the dots, apply some logic. Our government's effort to target of retail gun sellers appears more a political ploy to justify new gun control measures rather than a viable solution to end Mexican violence. If gun sellers are caught breaking the law, prosecute. But don't blame them if sloppy government stings let guns move south.

Even if the gun flow from the U.S. to Mexico was entirely halted, the cartels have other sources from which to buy.  It's only law abiding Americans who may find themselves shut off.

Our previous writing on these topics:
Of whistleblowers, watchdogs and ATF
Obama team moves toward gun control
Connecting the dots, raising questions about guns in Mexico

Update: The possibility of executive order gun control will be part of Tuesday (Feb. 8) night's show on Your call-in participation is invited.


  1. During the Clinton/Reno regime there was literally a shipload of (real) AK's interdicted and seized in the Ca Bay area. As far as I know we never did find out where they were headed.


  2. First of all, I very much doubt that these were real (full auto) AK-47s. A "real" AK-47 is comparatively rare in the US. My estimate is that the AK's are imported from other parts of the world.
    As a side note: never trust the BATFE or this administration. Their agenda is very clear.