Yesterday, the BATFE held a briefing for the media on the results regarding traces of firearms recovered in Mexico. Reporters that attended this briefing were not allowed any cameras, recording devices, or video equipment. They were only allowed pen and paper to take notes. Katie Pavlich of Townhall.com tweeted after the event that the moment they got into the briefing they were given a flash drive with the statistics.
The data released show that 68% of the guns submitted for tracing originated in the United States. Note that is only the guns submitted by the Mexican government. Moreover, as Larry Keane of NSSF pointed out in a tweet early this morning, no mention is made of the “Time to Crime” stat. Thus, you don’t know if the “recovered” firearms traced are ones from Operation Fast and Furious or from a burglary in El Paso in 1997.
The BATFE released this yesterday regarding the briefing on the traces.
ATF Releases Government of Mexico Firearms Trace Data
WASHINGTON – Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) today announced the release of trace information for firearms recovered in Mexico and submitted to ATF for tracing. Trace information shows that between calendar years 2007 and 2011 the Government of Mexico recovered and submitted more than 99,000 firearms to ATF for tracing. Of those firearms more than 68,000 were U.S.-sourced. More complete information will be available on the ATF website.
U.S.-sourced firearms are guns determined by ATF to be manufactured in the United States or legally imported into the United States by a federal firearms licensee. Since 2007, trace data shows a trend in recovered and submitted crime guns from Mexico shifting from pistols and revolvers to rifles. Law enforcement in Mexico now report that certain types of rifles, such as the AK and AR variants with detachable magazines, are used more frequently to commit violent crime by drug trafficking organizations.
ATF is working with its law enforcement partners at every level and the Government of Mexico to keep firearms out of the hands of gang members and criminal enterprises. The Mexico trace data is the result of information provided by the Government of Mexico to ATF about crime guns recovered in Mexico and submitted for tracing.
Firearms tracing provides information on the movement of a firearm from its first sale by a manufacturer or importer through the distribution chain in an attempt to identify the first retail purchaser. This information provides investigative leads for criminal investigations.
The Mexico trace data is not the result of any criminal investigation, or investigations, initiated by law enforcement in the United States.
ATF’s National Tracing Center (NTC) is the nation’s only crime gun tracing facility. The NTC provides critical information that assists domestic and international law enforcement agencies solve firearms crimes, detect firearms trafficking and identify trends with respect to intrastate, interstate and international movement of crime guns. The NTC traced more than 319,000 crime guns in calendar year 2011.
ATF is dedicated to reducing firearms trafficking and firearms-related violent crime on both sides of the border.
ATF will also release trace information for firearms recovered in Canada and the Caribbean and submitted to ATF for tracing between calendar years 2007 and 2011.
SayUncle had a post yesterday about how the multiple-long arm reporting requirement for the Southwest border states has now resulted in 123 investigations being started in south Texas. This came from an article on Wednesday in the Houston Chronicle. I don’t think it is any coincidence that the ATF emphasized the use of ARs and AKs “with detachable magazines” by the narco-terrorists in their press release.
Yesterday, Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT) had an amendment adopted to the FY13 Commerce, Justice and Science House Appropriations Bill which “would prevent the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) from using federal funds to track the purchases of gun owners who buy multiple rifles within a certain time period.”
From Rehberg’s statement on his amendment:
“While President Obama and his allies in Congress continue to undermine the Constitution, and infringe on our gun rights, I’ll keep fighting to ensure those rights are upheld,” said Rehberg, a member of the Second Amendment Task Force. “The ATF continues the effort to implement new gun control regulations without the approval of Congress, and, tragically, those efforts have included breaking our own country’s laws with the ‘Fast and Furious’ program. My amendment tells the Obama Administration that Congress will not tolerate this.”
The ATF regulation, first proposed in December of 2010 and approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on July 11, 2011, requires federally licensed firearm dealers (FFLs) to file reports with ATF on all sales of two or more semi-automatic rifles within five consecutive business days if the rifles are larger than .22 caliber and use detachable magazines. The requirement applies to dealers in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, but could be expanded to other states using the same obscure regulatory process used to create the rule. Information gathered from the dealers will be kept in a federal database for two years. While Congress passed legislation in the 1990s to allow ATF to track multiple-sales of handguns, they did not intend to expand this regulation to include long guns.
I also think it was no coincidence that BATFE held their press conference as Rep. Rehberg was working to amend the appropriation for their agency which would remove their ability to force FFLs in the Southwest to make reports on certain gun sales. The congressional liaison for BATFE (or more appropriately, agency lobbyist) would have known of these hearings and of Rep. Rehberg’s intent to offer his amendment which did pass.
Nothing happens without a reason in Washington. The BATFE press briefing may be seen as a counter-attack on the critics of that agency for both Project Gunwalker and the Administration’s attempt to use regulatory fiat as a gun control measure.
UPDATE: Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) had this to say in a release about the data given out by BATFE yesterday.
“Thorough gun statistics are hard to come by and tricky to interpret. The key to this data is that most of these guns can’t be traced to U.S. gun dealers. And, some of those would actually trace back to the United States because of the federal government’s own gunwalking scandal. We also have to remember that the only guns Mexico is going to submit for tracing are guns they know are from the United States, which clearly paints an incomplete picture of the firearms found in the Mexico.”
Katie Pavlich of Townhall.com who did attend the press briefing has a full report on it here. It seems some of her questions were not able to be answered (or they said they didn’t have the data).
UPDATE II: Larry Keane, General Counsel of NSSF, has a blog post up entitled “The Shrinking ‘Vast Majority’: NSSF Responds to ATF Mexican Trace Report.” It dissects the BATFE report and how some politicians and some in the media have played it up.
On the 90% myth:
But it shouldn’t surprise anyone to learn that many of the firearms recovered and traced come from the United States. That is because U.S. law requires markings on firearms precisely so they can be traced by law enforcement through commerce. It is sort of like tracing the VIN number on cars on a Ford dealership lot and be surprised to learn that most are Fords. What the 90 percent myth does not account for, and the media turns a blind eye to, and what yesterday’s ATF report does not shed light on, is the fact that you know nothing about the firearms recovered in Mexico but were never traced — like the firearms that the 150,000 or so Mexican soldiers took with them when they defected to go work for the drug cartels over the past several years.
On Time to Crime:
Perhaps what is most interesting about ATF’s report is the fact that it does not discuss the “Time to Crime” (TTC) for the Mexican traced firearms. ATF always gives TTC when it issues a tracing report (click here for an example). Why did ATF omit this piece of information? Because it knows that on average firearms (of all types) recovered in Mexico and successfully traced were on average originally sold at retail after a background check more than 15 years ago.