Thursday, April 5, 2012

President Calderon's questionable Mexico weapons stats

Speaking at the White House, Mexican President Filipe Calderon called for a resumption of the U.S. so-called assault weapons ban earlier this week. Mr. Calderon claims American guns shops provide the biggest pipeline into Mexico of guns deemed illegal there:
During my government, we have seized over 140,000 weapons in four years.  And I think that the vast majority have been assault weapons -- AK-47s, et cetera.  And many, the vast majority of these weapons were sold in gun shops in the United States.  Along the border of the U.S. and Mexico, there are approximately 8,000 weapons shops.  If we do our accounts, that means that there are approximately nine weapons stores for each Walmart that exists in the United States and Mexico.
Calderon sounds a lot like the Obama administration used to sound when talking about how many American guns were showing up in Mexico. 

But late last year, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) uncovered data debunking these kinds of claims with statistics from our own Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. And Grassley released the data in a statement that said, in part: 

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.
Something just doesn't feel right about Mr. Calderon's pitch for resumption of the assault weapon ban. Beyond trying to blame the U.S. for rampant lawlessness in his own country, he sounded like he was making an orchestrated pitch on behalf of the Obama administration. 

Mr. Calderon might have come across as more credible had he not spent so much time praising the Obama administration for what he says are unprecedented efforts to keep guns out of Mexico, and spent some time asking why, under Obama's watch, ATF monitored and willingly allowed a smuggling pipelines to funnel guns to Mexican cartels when the supply could have easily been stopped at the source.

Mr. Calderon's unsubstantiated claims about an American arms pipeline to Mexico will fool few. It wasn't crafted to stand up to scrutiny. It was designed to illicit an emotional response. And policy based on exaggerated emotional spin is a poor substitute for policy that's rooted in solid analysis of hard facts.

Related posts: The new push for assault weapons ban,   The Obama team's screwy stats about guns in Mexico

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