Guns, Mexico, Obama and Reality

Obama blames U.S. guns in Mexico


Meeting face-to-face with Mexican President Felipe Calderon, President Obama on Thursday [4/16/2009] said the U.S. is to blame for much of Mexico’s drug violence, and he set up a major congressional gun-control battle by calling on the Senate to ratify a treaty designed to track and cut the flow of guns to other countries.

Mr. Obama said he wants to renew a ban on some semiautomatic weapons but that it is not likely to pass Congress. Instead, he called for the Senate to ratify a decade-old hemispherewide treaty that would require nations to mark all weapons produced in the country and track them to make sure no weapons were exported to countries where they were banned.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visits Mexico, says U.S. to blame for drug wars


Hillary Clinton brought mea culpas to Mexico Wendesday [3/25/2009] for the guns and money flowing south from the U.S. that have fueled the bloody drug wars between the cartels and the Mexican army.

"It's not only guns, it's night-vision goggles, it's body armor," Clinton said enroute to Mexico City in her third foreign trip as Secretary of State.

"These criminals are outgunning law enforcement officials," Clinton said of the street warfare in towns near the border that have claimed more than 6,000 lives in the past year.

"And since we know that the vast majority, 90% of that [weaponry] comes from our country, we're going to try to stop it from getting there in the first place," Clinton said.

Comment: Fact checking

President Obama says 90 percent of Mexico's recovered crime guns come from the U.S. That's not what the statistics show.


An Elusive Number

Given the lack of hard data from Mexico, we can’t calculate a precise figure for what portion of crime guns have been traced to the U.S. Based on the best evidence we can find so far, we conclude that the 90 percent claim made by the president and others in his administration lacks a basis in solid fact. But we also conclude that the number is at least double what Fox News has reported, based on its reporters’ mistaken interpretation of ATF testimony.

Whether the number is 90 percent, or 36 percent, or something else, there’s no dispute that thousands of guns are being illegalIy transported into Mexico by way of the United States each year.

Comment: Current article from the Wall Street Journal (5/21/2011)

The Myth of Big-Time Gun Trafficking - Crime weapons usually come from petty theft and opportunistic dealers, not from an organized black market


Advocates argue that gun manufacturers and distributors are aware of these illegal practices and could stop them, if they chose to, by refusing to supply guns to the problematic dealers.

This theory has been embraced by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and even some scholars. They argue that disrupting trafficking operations can have a substantial impact on rates of criminal gun possession and gun violence.

Unfortunately, there is little evidence to support this set of interconnected claims.

The best available study, by researchers at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, indicates that criminals obtain guns from a wide variety of largely interchangeable low-volume sources. Criminals usually get their guns in one of three ways: as a byproduct of thefts, primarily residential burglaries; by buying guns one at a time from friends and relatives who neither regularly sell guns nor act as "straw purchasers" (legally qualified buyers who purchase guns for those prohibited from doing so); or, if they have no criminal convictions, by lawfully buying guns from licensed dealers.

As my colleague Kevin Wang and I found by examining federal crime data, the overall volume of gun theft alone is huge—at least 400,000 to 600,000 guns are stolen each year in the U.S. This is easily enough to resupply the entire criminal population with guns even if they were completely disarmed at the start of each year.

Based on the findings of law enforcement authorities, which we also gathered for our study, the typical trafficking operation handles fewer than a dozen guns each. The ATF uncovers fewer than 15 high-volume operations (involving over 250 guns) in the country each year.

High-volume trafficking, with or without the involvement of corrupt or negligent dealers, probably supplies less than 1% of the guns in criminal hands. Illicit gun sellers are instead more likely to be burglars who sell a few guns (typically fewer than a half dozen a year) along with all the other saleable property that they steal.


The problem with using these data is that only some crime guns are traced, and those that are traced are not representative of the full set of crime guns. Based on such traces, some claim, for example, that most Mexican crime guns originate with U.S. gun dealers.

But it's likely that police in Mexico submit for ATF tracing only those crime guns that they believe originated in the U.S. This would be reasonable, since those are the ones that the ATF is likely to be able to trace, but it is not a sample from which to generalize.

Even if guns of American origin account for only a small share of all Mexican crime guns, they would comprise nearly all of those submitted by the Mexican authorities for tracing by the ATF.

Comment: The Obama administration exaggerates the gun problem to promote their agenda!

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