Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) spelled some of it out today in a statement to the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism. The statement says, in part:
At the root of Fast & Furious, and a lot of rhetoric surrounding gun control legislation, has been the gun trafficking statistics provided by ATF. These unclear statistics have fueled the debate, and contributed to undertaking such a reckless operation as Fast & Furious.
For example, in 2009 both President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton stated that 90 percent of guns in Mexico were from the United States. But that statistic later changed to: 90 percent of guns that Mexico submitted for tracing to ATF were from the U.S. And now, this year, that number has become 70 percent of guns submitted by the Mexican government for tracing were from the U.S. What are the real numbers?
Articles discussing the 70 percent number misrepresent the facts, as I pointed out in a letter to then-ATF Acting Director Melson in June 2011. First, there are tens of thousands of guns confiscated at crime scenes annually in Mexico. The Associated Press stated in 2009 that over 305,424 confiscated weapons are locked in vaults in Mexico. However, the ATF has acknowledged to my staff in a briefing on July 29, 2011, that ATF does not have access to the vault in Mexico described in the story.
ATF also acknowledges that only a portion of guns recovered in Mexico are actually submitted to the U.S. for tracing. In a November 8, 2011, court filing, the Chief of ATF’s Firearms Operations Division made a declaration, saying: “It is important to note, however, that ATF’s eTrace data is based only on gun trace requests actually submitted to ATF by law enforcement officials in Mexico, and not on all of the guns seized in Mexico."
That court filing further states that “in 2008, of the approximately 30,000 firearms that the Mexican Attorney General’s Office informed ATF that it had seized, only 7,200, or one quarter of those firearms, were submitted to ATF for tracing.” So, if Mexico submits only 25 percent of guns for tracing, then the statistics could be grossly inaccurate one way or the other.
The discrepancies in the numbers do not stop there. ATF also informed my staff that the eTrace-based statistics could vary drastically by a single word’s definition. For example, the 70 percent number was generated using a definition of U.S.-sourced firearms -- that includes guns manufactured in the U.S. or imported through the U.S. Thus, the 70 percent number does not mean that all guns were purchased at a U.S. gun dealer and then smuggled across the border. It could simply mean the firearm was manufactured in the U.S.
So, when my staff asked ATF, how many guns traced in 2009 and 2010 were traced to a U.S. gun dealer, the numbers were quite shocking in comparison to the statistics we’ve previously heard.
For 2009, of the 21,313 guns recovered in Mexico and submitted for tracing, only 5,444 were sourced to a U.S. gun dealer. That’s around 25 percent.
For 2010, of the 7,971 guns recovered in Mexico submitted for tracing, only 2,945 were sourced to a U.S. gun dealer. That’s 37 percent.
Either way, both are a far cry from 70 percent. Not to mention that guns in 2009 and 2010 from gun dealers could include some of the nearly 2,000 firearms walked as part of the Justice Department’s Operation Fast & Furious.Nice to know the ATF can deliver accurate stats when asked to do so. How far out of its way did the Obama administration have to go to come up with the more sensationalized interpretation it tried to put over on us?
Related previous posts:
Lanny Davis Spins for Holder
Connecting the dots, raising questions about guns in Mexico