NSSF On The Feinstein-Schumer-Whitehouse “Report”

Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Charles Schumer (D-NY), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) issued a so-called report on Monday blaming American guns for the violence in Mexico. Frankly, I think it was timed to draw media attention from the Gunwalker hearings that started that afternoon.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation has responded to that report and takes apart their numbers. Rather than showing 70% of guns being traced from Mexico to the U.S., it actually shows a decline in the number of American firearms being traced by Mexican authorities.

Anti-Gun Report Shows DECLINE in Number of US Firearms Being Traced to Mexico
June 15, 2011
By Larry Keane

Once again anti-gun legislators are attempting to misrepresent firearm tracing data, though this time, with declining numbers and a public wary of political posturing, it may just backfire on them.

A report (“Halting US Firearms Trafficking to Mexico“) released Monday by a trio of anti-gun senators including Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) appears to show the number of firearms that have been recovered in Mexico and traced to the United States as actually declining in recent years from an unsubstantiated 90 percent to, now, an unsubstantiated 70 percent.

It is important to note that these percentages do not reflect the total number of firearms recovered. In fact, in a letter to Sen. Feinstein discussing this very report, ATF Acting Director Kenneth Melson admitted, “There are no United States Government sources that maintain any record of the total number of criminal firearms seized in Mexico.”

So to be clear, the 70 percent claim relates only to the very small number of traced firearms – not the total number of firearms recovered. And it’s no surprise that so many come from the United States. We have a very good system for tracing firearms through serial numbers and purchase records (some countries don’t trace them at all). Mexico recognizes this fact and submits for tracing only those firearms that it believes would likely prove trace positive.

Earlier this year a report by the independent research group STRATFOR noted that less than 12 percent of the total number of guns seized in Mexico during 2008 had been verified as coming from the United States. STRATFOR cited a June 2009 U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report noting:

30,000 firearms were seized from criminals by Mexican authorities in 2008.
Of these 30,000 firearms, information pertaining to 7,200 of them (24 percent) was submitted to the ATF for tracing.
Of these 7,200 guns, only about 4,000 could be traced by the ATF.
Of these 4,000, some 3,480 (87 percent) were shown to have come from the United States.

The Feinstein report follows an update to the U.S. Firearms Trafficking to Mexico Report issued by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. According to that update, Mexican authorities have submitted trace requests for “tens of thousands of firearms” to the ATF. However, the ATF has stated that many of these requests are duplicative, with some firearms being resubmitted for tracing five times or more. Moreover, the update notes that 75 percent of the firearm traces are not successful and that only eight percent lead to an investigation. Furthermore, as ATF has repeatedly stated, the tracing of a firearm (or the opening of an investigation) in no way indicates criminal wrong-doing by either the retailer or the first purchaser of the firearm.

The Wilson report also notes that most of the traced firearms were originally sold at retail more than five years earlier. The report doesn’t say how much earlier, but ATF has previously said that firearms traced from Mexico were on average 14 years old. This demonstrates that of the small percentage of guns that do come from the United States, these firearms have not been purchased recently.

Despite attempts by anti-gun legislators to utilize these reports as leverage for pushing gun control, no one should be under any illusions; the United States is no more the source of 70 percent of the weapons used by the Mexican cartels than it is 90 percent. These numbers only allege to relate to the small percentage of seized and traceable firearms submitted to the ATF.

Ignore The Man Behind The Curtain

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives along with their friends in the Senate hope that you will ignore the hearings being held before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee into Operation Fast and Furious (aka Project Gunwalker) and the ATF’s role in letting guns walk to Mexico.

Cam Edwards of NRA News disposed of the 70% figure last week yet there are some that will continue to repeat it because it buttresses their cause. As Mike at Sipsey Street Irregulars says, “Repeat The Lie” often and loudly so that people will ignore the real stats and the role of ATF in gunrunning to Mexico.

After the hearings tomorrow, that will become harder and harder even with misleading numbers, reports, and press releases from the Feinsteins and Schumers of this world.

Feinstein, Schumer, Whitehouse Report Calls for Stronger U.S. Response to Firearms Trafficking to Mexico

Urges Congress and the Administration to strengthen firearms laws to stem drug-related violence

70% of weapons recovered in Mexico originated in U.S. according to ATF

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Chairman of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, along with Senators Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) today released the findings of a Congressional investigation that concludes American military-style weapons are arming Mexico’s brutal drug trafficking organizations at an alarming rate and policymakers are not adequately responding.

“Congress has been virtually moribund while powerful Mexican drug trafficking organizations continue to gain unfettered access to military-style firearms coming from the United States,” said Senator Feinstein. “New ATF data provided last week reveals that more than 70 percent of firearms recovered at crime scenes and traced by Mexican officials actually originated in the United States.”

According to the report, Halting U.S. Firearms Trafficking to Mexico, the overwhelming majority of firearms recovered at crime scenes and traced by Mexican officials originate in the United States. In a recent letter to Feinstein, ATF Acting Director Kenneth Melson indicated that in 2009 and 2010 20,504 of the 29,284 firearms (70 percent) recovered in Mexico and submitted for tracing were United States-sourced.

“This report confirms what many of us already know to be true: although the Senate’s recently passed border measure will help make our Southern border safer, it is still too easy for Mexican drug lords to get their hands on deadly military-grade weapons within our borders,” said Senator Schumer. “We need to redouble our efforts to keep violent firearms out of the hands of these traffickers.”

“This report outlines common sense measures that will help protect our border and our communities by keeping dangerous weapons out of the hands of Mexican gangs and drug cartels,” said Senator Whitehouse.

Conclusions of the report:

It will be very difficult to successfully reduce drug-related violence in Mexico without starving the country’s drug trafficking organizations of their military-style weapons.

To do this, the United States must strengthen current firearms laws and regulations. This can be done through a number of key actions by the Obama Administration and Congress, including:

Enactment of legislation to close the gun show loophole;
Better enforcement of the existing ban on imports of military-style weapons;
Reinstatement of the expired Assault Weapons Ban;
Reporting by Federal Firearms Licensees on all multiple firearms sales; and
Senate ratification of the Inter-American Convention Against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking of Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives and Other Related Materials (CIFTA).

The Halting U.S. Firearms Trafficking to Mexico report can be found here. Information from the report was gathered through meetings in Mexico and in U.S. border cities, briefings, interviews, and a review of documents from both government and non-government subject matter experts.

Coalition Of Mexican And American Groups Seek To Ban “Assault Weapons”

Dave Kopel is interviewed by Cam Edwards on the efforts of Mexican and U.S. groups to have semi-automatic firearms banned in the U.S. According to the Latin American Herald Tribune, they are organizing a petition which they plan to present to President Obama.

One of these groups is Global Exchange. This is a pro-Castro, pro-Hugo Chavez group which sent monies to the families of insurgents in Fallujah, Iraq.

Why One Should Not Depend On Aging Rock Stars For The Facts

The Irish rock group U2 played a series of concerts last week in Mexico City. The band’s leader Bono made news when he said that most murders in Mexico are committed with automatic firearms smuggled in from the United States. From the band’s website:

‘I want you to send a message of love along the border to the good and the great people of the United States of America.’ announced Bono, during ‘Pride’ at the third show in Mexico tonight. ‘ I want you to send a message to people of conscience.

‘Ask them to answer the question. Why is it that all we hear on the news is how drugs are smuggled through Mexico to the United States ?

‘And we don’t hear about all the automatic weapons that are being smuggled into Mexico from the United States. Nine thousand registered arms dealers on the other side of the border. Nine thousand.

‘Most of the murders committed here are from weapons sold in the United States of America.

In the video embedded below (which I have also posted on YouTube), you can listen to the comments made by Bono and the change in lyrics he made to their song Pride (In the Name of Love).

Arthur Chrenkoff writing for Pajamas Media says Bono makes good music but uses bad numbers.

I can’t exactly blame you. You have probably heard the “statistic” that 90 percent of guns used to commit crimes in Mexico come from the United States from Hillary Clinton herself. Or Senator Dianne Feinstein. Or maybe even from William Hoover, assistant director for field operations at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. After all, if anyone knows, the ATF should, right?

The problem is, as with many other factoids which gain a life of their own and enter the general circulation through media and internet, this is simply not true.

Thanks to the NSSF, we have this graphic showing that for 2008 – the latest year for which figures are available – only 12% of firearms seized in Mexico came from the United States. Of course, with all the firearms that went to Mexico due to Project Gunwalker, the numbers could be higher in later years.

The bottom line is that we’d be a lot better off if rock stars, actors, and other assorted glitterati stuck to music or acting or just looking pretty and save us from having to hear their pronouncements about matters on which they know nothing.

Head Of Failed Narco-State Lectures Us

Felipe Calderon, President of Mexico, was interviewed by Charlie Rose last week. He blamed the start of the rise in violence in his country on the end of the Clinton-era Assault Weapons Ban.

Later in the interview El Presidente Calderon notes that the per capital GDP in Mexico has risen from about $3,000 per year to $15,000 since the North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA) was passed. With the rise in income has come the rise in drug use in Mexico itself. As a result the drug cartels are no longer in just the wholesale export business but have now entered the retail drug trade as well. Calderon admits that much of the current cartel violence is aimed at controlling their distribution territories. By the way, NAFTA was ratified in 1992 – 12 years before the Assault Weapons Ban expired.

Because we refused to renew a gun control bill that never had any impact on crime and because we made the Mexicans a more prosperous people, the violence of the drug cartels and the failure of the Mexican federal government to control their own state is now our fault. Yeah, right.

If Calderon had blamed the rise of the drug cartels and accompanying violence on the passage of the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005, I might have believed him. With most domestic meth production ended due to the difficulty of getting pseudoephedrine in quantity, the overwhelming majority of the drug now comes from Mexico. This also coincides with the growth of the Mexican cartels and the violence in Mexico.

NSSF On Threat Of Mexican Lawsuit

The National Shooting Sports Foundation responded to reports that the Mexican government will seek to sue American gun manufacturers for the violence in Mexico. The NSSF says, in essence, not so fast amigo – but politely. They remind President Calderon that the overwhelming majority of the firearms seized in Mexico do not come from the United States.

This week a Mexican official confirmed that President Felipe Calderon’s government has hired U.S. trial lawyers to investigate possible litigation against U.S. gun manufacturers and firearms retailers, seeking to hold these lawful companies responsible for the criminal misuse of firearms in Mexico. Though the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, signed into law in 2005 by then President George W. Bush, prevents such frivolous lawsuits, the mere threat demands a response.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the trade association for the firearms industry, respects the work of President Calderon to willingly take on his country’s powerful drug cartels; however, we are disappointed that he would seek to hold law-abiding American companies responsible for crime in Mexico. This is especially troubling given investigative reports that show more than 80 percent of the firearms recovered in Mexico do not come from the United States. The most recent of these reports, from the independent research group STRATFOR, determined that less than 12 percent of the guns Mexico seized in 2008 came from the United States.

Furthermore, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), firearms traced in Mexico were originally sold at retail not recently, but, on average, 14 years earlier. This is completely inconsistent with any notion that a flood of newly purchased firearms are being illegally smuggled over the border. And let’s not forget that no retail firearm sale can be made in the U.S. until after an FBI criminal background check of the purchaser has been completed.

Exacerbating misconceptions about the firearms used by Mexican drug cartels, even mainstream publications such as the Washington Post, repeat erroneous information. For example, in today’s editorial the paper stated that Mexican drug cartels are “snapping up the military-style machine guns available in U.S. gun shops.” The fact is that machine guns are heavily regulated and virtually never sold at retail in the United States.

Still, in response to concerns over the violence in Mexico, ATF conducted more than 2,000 inspections of firearms dealers along the border. The result? Not a single dealer was charged with committing any crime and only two (or 0.01%) had their licenses revoked for unknown reasons that could have nothing to do with the cartels illegally obtaining firearms from retailers in the United States.

While these ATF inspections were clearing the law-abiding retailers’ good names, which were being smeared by many in the mainstream press and anti-gun officials in both the United States and Mexico, as many as 150,000 Mexican soldiers defected to work for the drug cartels, bringing their American-made service-issued firearms with them.

Perhaps the Mexican government should seek to file suit against their military personnel actively engaged in such illegal conduct.

Members of the firearms industry take seriously the criminal acquisition and misuse of their products. This is why our industry has for more than a decade partnered with the ATF in a national campaign to make the public aware that it is a serious crime to straw purchase a firearm. The program, called Don’t Lie for the Other Guy, is now funded completely by members of the firearms industry and also helps ATF to educate firearms retailers – whom ATF considers the first line of defense – to better detect and prevent illegal straw purchases.

The firearms industry is one of America’s oldest and most-storied entities. We played a prominent role in America’s westward expansion, continue to serve as the Arsenal for Democracy and support the conservation of America’s wildlife and great outdoors. We are also one of the most regulated industries in the world. From production to distribution, distribution to sale, everything we as an industry do is overseen by the United States government.

Again, we applaud President Calderon for taking steps to stop the cartels when past Mexican administrations paid only lip service and allowed rampant corruption to fester. Still, it is wrong for anyone to blame America’s firearms industry for the problems Mexico is currently facing.

Another Nation Heard From

So far the government of Mexico has been fairly quiet on Project Gunrunner aka “Fast and Furious” aka Project Gunwalker. While the Mexicans have blamed American guns on a regular basis for their problems as they descend into a narco-terrorist state, they have not said much of anything on Project Gunwalker.

They have now.

First reported on a Mexican website yesterday and subsequently by CBS and the BBC, the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs (SRE) has made a formal request to the United States for the details of the “Fast and Furious” operation. The BBC says about the request:

In a statement, the Mexican foreign ministry said it would follow US Justice Department and ATF investigations into the operation with “special interest”.

“The aim of the governments of Mexico and the US is to stop the trafficking of arms on the basis of shared responsibility, and both sides are working to strengthen bilateral cooperation on this issue,” it said.

As has often been noted and CBS’s Sharyl Attkisson has reemphasized:

ATF sources tell CBS News that Mexican officials were intentionally kept in the dark for fear that they would jeopardize the controversial program. The strategy drew fierce criticism from federal agents ordered to employ it, including John Dodson. Dodson told CBS News that that letting guns “walk” endangered too many lives.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (SRE) posted a notice of their request on the SRE website in Spanish. If someone with better Spanish than me would like to translate it, I’ll be glad to post their translation. That said, even though I last took high school Spanish over 35 years ago I can make out the gist of it.

Posición ante reportes sobre la operación denominada “Fast and Furious” de la ATF

Sábado 05 de Marzo | Comunicado # 065 | México, D.F.

En relación con la información dada a conocer por diversos medios de comunicación estadounidenses y mexicanos sobre una operación denominada Fast and Furious conducida por la Oficina de control de Alcohol, Tabaco, Armas y Explosivos (ATF) del Departamento de Justicia de Estados Unidos, la Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores manifiesta lo siguiente:

1. Se ha procedido a solicitar información detallada sobre este asunto a las autoridades estadounidenses.

2. El Gobierno de México seguirá con especial interés las investigaciones anunciadas tanto por ATF como por el Departamento de Justicia.

3. El objetivo de los gobiernos de México y de Estados Unidos es detener el tráfico de armas sobre la base del principio de responsabilidad compartida y ambos trabajan para fortalecer la cooperación bilateral en la materia. Dicha prioridad fue ratificada por los Presidentes de México y Estados Unidos el pasado 3 de marzo, en Washington.

Checking the State Department’s website, there is no word yet of any reaction to the Mexican Government’s request. That said, Mike Vanderboegh reports a rumor of a meeting today at the State Department to discuss the issue. I wonder if any undiplomatic language will be used at the rumored meeting.

UPDATE: The Washington Post is reporting this evening (March 8th) that legislators from all three major Mexican political parties are calling for a joint Mexican-US working group to investigate ATF’s Operation Fast and Furious. Moreover,

Congressman Humberto Trevino estimated Tuesday that 150 shooting injuries or deaths have been linked to guns that were allowed to proceed into Mexico as part of a U.S. effort to build cases against traffickers.

Stratfor On The 90% Myth

Mexico’s Gun Supply and the 90 Percent Myth is republished with permission of STRATFOR.

Mexico’s Gun Supply and the 90 Percent Myth
By Scott Stewart

For several years now, STRATFOR has been closely watching developments in Mexico that relate to what we consider the three wars being waged there. Those three wars are the war between the various drug cartels, the war between the government and the cartels and the war being waged against citizens and businesses by criminals.

In addition to watching tactical developments of the cartel wars on the ground and studying the dynamics of the conflict among the various warring factions, we have also been paying close attention to the ways that both the Mexican and U.S. governments have reacted to these developments. Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects to watch has been the way in which the Mexican government has tried to deflect responsibility for the cartel wars away from itself and onto the United States. According to the Mexican government, the cartel wars are not a result of corruption in Mexico or of economic and societal dynamics that leave many Mexicans marginalized and desperate to find a way to make a living. Instead, the cartel wars are due to the insatiable American appetite for narcotics and the endless stream of guns that flows from the United States into Mexico and that results in Mexican violence.

Interestingly, the part of this argument pertaining to guns has been adopted by many politicians and government officials in the United States in recent years. It has now become quite common to hear U.S. officials confidently assert that 90 percent of the weapons used by the Mexican drug cartels come from the United States. However, a close examination of the dynamics of the cartel wars in Mexico — and of how the oft-echoed 90 percent number was reached — clearly demonstrates that the number is more political rhetoric than empirical fact.

By the Numbers

As we discussed in a previous analysis, the 90 percent number was derived from a June 2009 U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report to Congress on U.S. efforts to combat arms trafficking to Mexico (see external link).

According to the GAO report, some 30,000 firearms were seized from criminals by Mexican authorities in 2008. Of these 30,000 firearms, information pertaining to 7,200 of them (24 percent) was submitted to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) for tracing. Of these 7,200 guns, only about 4,000 could be traced by the ATF, and of these 4,000, some 3,480 (87 percent) were shown to have come from the United States.

This means that the 87 percent figure relates to the number of weapons submitted by the Mexican government to the ATF that could be successfully traced and not from the total number of weapons seized by Mexican authorities or even from the total number of weapons submitted to the ATF for tracing. In fact, the 3,480 guns positively traced to the United States equals less than 12 percent of the total arms seized in Mexico in 2008 and less than 48 percent of all those submitted by the Mexican government to the ATF for tracing. This means that almost 90 percent of the guns seized in Mexico in 2008 were not traced back to the United States.

The remaining 22,800 firearms seized by Mexican authorities in 2008 were not traced for a variety of reasons. In addition to factors such as bureaucratic barriers and negligence, many of the weapons seized by Mexican authorities either do not bear serial numbers or have had their serial numbers altered or obliterated. It is also important to understand that the Mexican authorities simply don’t bother to submit some classes of weapons to the ATF for tracing. Such weapons include firearms they identify as coming from their own military or police forces, or guns that they can trace back themselves as being sold through the Mexican Defense Department’s Arms and Ammunition Marketing Division (UCAM). Likewise, they do not ask ATF to trace military ordnance from third countries like the South Korean fragmentation grenades commonly used in cartel attacks.

Of course, some or even many of the 22,800 firearms the Mexicans did not submit to ATF for tracing may have originated in the United States. But according to the figures presented by the GAO, there is no evidence to support the assertion that 90 percent of the guns used by the Mexican cartels come from the United States — especially when not even 50 percent of those that were submitted for tracing were ultimately found to be of U.S. origin.

This point leads us to consider the types of weapons being used by the Mexican cartels and where they come from.

Types and Sources of Guns

To gain an understanding of the dynamics of the gun flow inside Mexico, it helps if one divides the guns seized by Mexican authorities from criminals into three broad categories — which, incidentally, just happen to represent three different sources.

Type 1: Guns Legally Available in Mexico

The first category of weapons encountered in Mexico is weapons available legally for sale in Mexico through UCAM. These include handguns smaller than a .357 magnum such as .380 and .38 Special.

A large portion of this first type of guns used by criminals is purchased in Mexico, or stolen from their legitimate owners. While UCAM does have very strict regulations for civilians to purchase guns, criminals will use straw purchasers to obtain firearms from UCAM or obtain them from corrupt officials. Cartel hit men in Mexico commonly use .380 pistols equipped with sound suppressors in their assassinations. In many cases, these pistols are purchased in Mexico, the suppressors are locally manufactured and the guns are adapted to receive the suppressors by Mexican gunsmiths.

It must be noted, though, that because of the cost and hassle of purchasing guns in Mexico, many of the guns in this category are purchased in the United States and smuggled into the country. There are a lot of cheap guns available on the U.S. market, and they can be sold at a premium in Mexico. Indeed, guns in this category, such as .380 pistols and .22-caliber rifles and pistols, are among the guns most commonly traced back to the United States. Still, the numbers do not indicate that 90 percent of guns in this category come from the United States.

Additionally, most of the explosives the cartels have been using in improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Mexico over the past year have used commercially available Tovex, so we consider these explosives to fall in this first category. Mexican IEDs are another area where the rhetoric has been interesting to analyze, but we will explore this topic another time.

Type 2: Guns Legally Available in the U.S. but Not in Mexico

Many popular handgun calibers, such as 9 mm, .45 and .40, are reserved for the military and police and are not available for sale to civilians in Mexico. These guns, which are legally sold and very popular in the United States, comprise our second category, which also includes .50-caliber rifles, semiautomatic versions of assault rifles like the AK-47 and M16 and the FN Five-Seven pistol.

When we consider this second type of guns, a large number of them encountered in Mexico are likely purchased in the United States. Indeed, the GAO report notes that many of the guns most commonly traced back to the United States fall into this category. There are also many .45-caliber and 9 mm semiautomatic pistols and .357 revolvers obtained from deserters from the Mexican military and police, purchased from corrupt Mexican authorities or even brought in from South America (guns made by manufacturers such as Taurus and Bersa). This category also includes semiautomatic variants of assault rifles and main battle rifles, which are often converted by Mexican gunsmiths to be capable of fully automatic fire.

One can buy these types of weapons on the international arms market, but one pays a premium for such guns and it is cheaper and easier to simply buy them in the United States or South America and smuggle them into Mexico. In fact, there is an entire cottage industry that has developed to smuggle such weapons, and not all the customers are cartel hit men. There are many Mexican citizens who own guns in calibers such as .45, 9 mm, .40 and .44 magnum for self-defense — even though such guns are illegal in Mexico.

Type 3: Guns Not Available for Civilian Purchase in Mexico or the U.S.

The third category of weapons encountered in Mexico is military grade ordnance not generally available for sale in the United States or Mexico. This category includes hand grenades, 40 mm grenades, rocket-propelled grenades, automatic assault rifles and main battle rifles and light machine guns.

This third type of weapon is fairly difficult and very expensive to obtain in the United States (especially in the large numbers in which the cartels are employing them). They are also dangerous to obtain in the United States due to heavy law-enforcement scrutiny. Therefore, most of the military ordnance used by the Mexican cartels comes from other sources, such as the international arms market (increasingly from China via the same networks that furnish precursor chemicals for narcotics manufacturing), or from corrupt elements in the Mexican military or even deserters who take their weapons with them. Besides, items such as South Korean fragmentation grenades and RPG-7s, often used by the cartels, simply are not in the U.S. arsenal. This means that very few of the weapons in this category come from the United States.

In recent years the cartels (especially their enforcer groups such as Los Zetas, Gente Nueva and La Linea) have been increasingly using military weaponry instead of sporting arms. A close examination of the arms seized from the enforcer groups and their training camps clearly demonstrates this trend toward military ordnance, including many weapons not readily available in the United States. Some of these seizures have included M60 machine guns and hundreds of 40 mm grenades obtained from the military arsenals of countries like Guatemala.

But Guatemala is not the only source of such weapons. Latin America is awash in weapons that were shipped there over the past several decades to supply the various insurgencies and counterinsurgencies in the region. When these military-grade weapons are combined with the rampant corruption in the region, they quickly find their way into the black arms market. The Mexican cartels have supply-chain contacts that help move narcotics to Mexico from South America and they are able to use this same network to obtain guns from the black market in South and Central America and then smuggle them into Mexico. While there are many weapons in this category that were manufactured in the United States, the overwhelming majority of the U.S.-manufactured weapons of this third type encountered in Mexico — like LAW rockets and M60 machine guns — come into Mexico from third countries and not directly from the United States.

There are also some cases of overlap between classes of weapons. For example, the FN Five-Seven pistol is available for commercial purchase in the United States, but the 5.7×28 armor-piercing ammunition for the pistol favored by the cartels is not — it is a restricted item. However, some of the special operations forces units in the Mexican military are issued the Five-Seven as well as the FN P90 personal defense weapon, which also shoots the 5.7×28 round, and the cartels are obtaining some of these weapons and the armor-piercing ammunition from them and not from the United States. Conversely, we see bulk 5.56 mm and 7.62 mm ammunition bought in the United States and smuggled into Mexico, where it is used in fully-automatic AK-47s and M16s purchased elsewhere. As noted above, China has become an increasingly common source for military weapons like grenades and fully automatic assault rifles in recent years.

To really understand Mexico’s gun problem, however, it is necessary to recognize that the same economic law of supply and demand that fuels drug smuggling into the United States also fuels gun smuggling into Mexico. Black-market guns in Mexico can fetch up to 300 percent of their normal purchase price — a profit margin rivaling the narcotics the cartels sell. Even if it were somehow possible to hermetically seal the U.S.-Mexico border and shut off all the guns coming from the United States, the cartels would still be able to obtain weapons elsewhere — just as narcotics would continue to flow into the United States from other places. The United States does provide cheap and easy access to certain types of weapons and ammunition, but as demonstrated by groups such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, weapons can be easily obtained from other sources via the black arms market — albeit at a higher price.

There has clearly been a long and well-documented history of arms smuggling across the U.S.-Mexico border, but it is important to recognize that, while the United States is a significant source of certain classes of weapons and ammunition, it is by no means the source of 90 percent of the weapons used by the Mexican cartels, as is commonly asserted.

White House Puts Hold On New ATF Multi-Rifle Sales Reporting

According to a story from Reuters, the White House and the Office of Management and Budget are delaying the implementation of the ATF’s new “two-a-day” reporting rule that was supposed to start at the beginning of the year in the border states of California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.

The White House Office of Management and Budget was expected to approve the emergency rule change on Wednesday. But an official with direct knowledge told Reuters that “ATF’s information collection request is still under review,” and declined further comment until the “deliberative phase is concluded.”

Of course, Paul Helmke of the Brady Campaign expressed disappointment and hoped that this was only a temporary delay. He termed it a “common-sense” policy and added:

“Dealers are already required to report multiple sales of handguns and this is just implementing the same thing for long guns,” Helmke told Reuters.

“It shouldn’t be that much more of a burden on anyone in terms of paperwork and data collection, and it could help save lives … It seems like a measure that should be fairly noncontroversial.”

At the heart of this “delay” is stiff opposition from gun rights groups and their allies – including Democrats – in Congress. The Montana delegation has been particularly vociferous on the issue.

The Gunleaders.com Blog has the documents submitted by ATF to OMB in justification of their reporting rule. The ATF estimated that the cost to FFL’s would be nil since most would fax it in and that the new reporting rule would have no impact on small businesses. Unless the ATF is providing a toll free number there is a cost. Moreover, the overwhelming majority of gun shops in this country are not the “big box” stores but rather small businesses.

If the White House is wavering on this, now is time to put more pressure on them. Call, fax, write, or email both your Senators and your Congressman opposing this “emergency” requirement that is only supposed to last 6 months if one believes the Federal Register. Note that in the documents submitted to the OMB by ATF, they are saying one year.