Lies, Damn Lies and U.S. Guns in Mexico

Yesterday I linked to a Fox News report that did some real twisting of statistics to argue against Sec. of State Clinton’s assertion that “90 percent of the weapons used to commit crimes in Mexico come from the United States.” I didn’t have time to go into why their arguments were specious crap yesterday but now I feel like getting into it.

Here’s the argument made by William La Jeunesse and Maxim Lott of Fox News:

There’s just one problem with the 90 percent “statistic” and it’s a big one:

It’s just not true.

In fact, it’s not even close. The fact is, only 17 percent of guns found at Mexican crime scenes have been traced to the U.S.

What’s true, an ATF spokeswoman told FOXNews.com, in a clarification of the statistic used by her own agency’s assistant director, “is that over 90 percent of the traced firearms originate from the U.S.”

But a large percentage of the guns recovered in Mexico do not get sent back to the U.S. for tracing, because it is obvious from their markings that they do not come from the U.S.

I italicized the part that is bullshit. The real deal is this, the Mexican authorities frequently don’t return guns to the U.S. for tracing because in all likelihood they were legally sold to Mexican military or police and then resold to the narcos.

Bill Conroy has an excellent report that blows up Fox’s lies. The piece also points out that even the assertions of the Obama administration are massively understating the problem. Its not the gunshow loophole and a few bad apple gundealers that are providing the bulk of the heavy armaments to the narco cartels, its the U.S. military-industrial complex.

Mainstream media and Beltway pundits and politicians in recent months have unleashed a wave of panic in the nation linking the escalading violence in Mexico, and its projected spread into the U.S., to illegal weapons smuggling.

The smokescreen being spread by these official mouthpieces of manufactured consensus is that a host of criminal operators are engaging in straw (or fraudulent) gun purchases, making clandestine purchases at U.S. gun shows or otherwise assembling small caches of weapons here in the states in order to smuggle them south of the border to the ”œdrug cartels.”

A Narco News investigation into the flow of arms across the U.S. border appears to lead right back to the systemic corruption that afflicts a vast swath of the Mexican government under President Felipe Calderon and this nation’s own embrace of market-driven free-trade policies.

The deadliest of the weapons now in the hands of criminal groups in Mexico, particularly along the U.S. border, by any reasonable standard of an analysis of the facts, appear to be getting into that nation through perfectly legal private-sector arms exports, measured in the billions of dollars, and sanctioned by our own State Department. These deadly trade commodities ”” grenade launchers, explosives and ”œassault” weapons ””are then, in quantities that can fill warehouses, being corruptly transferred to drug trafficking organizations via their reach into the Mexican military and law enforcement agencies, the evidence indicates.

Read the whole piece by Conroy. Its excellent.

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Nat Wilson Turner

10 CommentsLeave a comment

  • iran/contra deja vu. still current news.

    legalise drugs? no way in hell. just say no, nancy said so.

    this is SOP stuff, old news. ‘crack the cia / ‘dark alliance’ stuff. narconews.com’s turf. frank forthcoming candid disclosure or acknowledgement or admission by obama not to be expected for sure. what’s good for one country down south is good enough for the rest.

    there’s all kinds of pipelines.

    http://www.narconews.com/darkalliance/drugs/start.htm

    http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle-old/367/garywebb.shtml

    http://www.borev.net/2007/09/you_can_understand_where_peopl.html

    ‘He who controls the Spice controls the universe…’ -Frank Herbert

    for me, this was the meat, this post. glad you returned to the ‘specious crap’ argument.

    obama’s slick, as disingenuous as any neocon. far as i’m concerned, he might as well be one. hillary (& bill) likewise. a pox on ‘em all.

    …lemme do a little rummaging -aha, found it:
    http://agonist.org/lj/20071029/the_index_of_suspicion

  • NarcoNews is just fantastic. They have been sticking to this for years & really getting somewhere on it. &thanks to Nate for tracking this biz. It gets deep. Lone Star, Five Star, dubious corporate charters, tons of data points to follow. THe only answer is demilitarization – we can see the military aid leaches out – no matter what.

    Hongpong.com

  • The scary part about demilitarization (which I don’t expect to happen until AFTER utter economic collapse AND the U.S. loses at least one major war), is that our economy has been on a war footing since 1941. We have never figured out how to keep the economy humming without being on a war footing.

  • …on this one, ’cause I ain’t seeing a lot being demonstrated by the data to justify the political overtones.

    29,000 weapons recovered at crime scenes (no characterization of the scenes, BTW, giving no sense of how many are drug-related). 6,000 of these have been submitted to the ATF for tracing – 5,114 of those submitted have been sourced to the US.

    The remaining 23,000 that have not been submitted to the ATF for tracing represent a pretty huge unknown. Conroy’s piece demonstrates only that military munitions (that he alleges, likely accurately in many cases, to be US-sourced) are ending up in the hands of the cartels – he notably does not demonstrate that they account for a large portion of the 23,000 un-sourced weapons. It seems fairly unlikely, if one takes into account the TOE of the Mexican armed forces, that US sourced munitions are going to account for anything more than a few thousand of these weapons. The issue Mexican battle rifles are the G3 (manufactured under license to HK in Mexico, IIRC – this was in vogue back when G3s ruled the world) and the FX-05 currently replacing it (an indigenous Mexican design – some affinities to the G36, but not as strong as naive examination would lead one to believe). AR-15 pattern weapons have been issued in the past, but the scale of issue has been restricted – though do note that the Federal Police have it in their arms rooms and I don’t have a great sense of what their scale of issue is.

    Short form of all this? My view, everybody’s got a valid point here, but everyone might also want to take into account that they’re blind men grabbing different bits of the elephant before they start saying who’s full of what.

    “The absence of any US-Iran bilateral channel…may have the perverse effect of reinforcing Iranian interest in progressing in the nuclear realm so that the US will be forced to take it seriously and engage it directly.” ~ Richard Haass

  • Last week, the Department of Homeland Security announced it would send dogs, X-ray machines and more agents to the border to search southbound cars for guns and cash headed to Mexico.

    “This is a two-way street,” President Obama said during CBS’ Face the Nation news program Sunday. “We’ve got to do our part in reducing the flow of cash and guns south.”

    U.S. gun-ownership groups say they doubt that harsher rules would stem Mexico’s violence. For them, Mexico is proof that gun control doesn’t work.

    “Mexico has very strict gun laws which clearly have done nothing to prevent criminals and drug cartels from obtaining firearms, and it’s left many of the honest residents of Mexico defenseless,” said Chris Cox, chief lobbyist for the National Rifle Association.

    it hurts the head

    Mexico: Gun controls undermined by U.S.

    By Chris Hawley, USA TODAY

    MEXICO CITY — There is one gun store in Mexico. Only one. And not just anybody can shop here.

    The “Directorate for Arms and Munitions Sales,” as the store is called, is run by the Mexican army and occupies two rooms in an olive-green, heavily guarded building near the army’s headquarters.

    Prospective customers need a permit from the army that can take months to get. And once they buy a gun, there are reams of rules: how much ammunition they can buy each month; where they can take the gun; who they can sell it to.

    To some shoppers, the irony is clear: Mexico has some of the toughest gun-control laws in the world, yet the country’s drug cartels are armed to the teeth with illegal weapons that are smuggled over the border from the United States.

    “If the United States had a system like ours, we wouldn’t have so many problems here in Mexico,” Agustin Villordo, 27, of Puebla said as he shopped for a hunting rifle.

    On Thursday, Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano visit Mexico to discuss ways to stop the smuggling of American weapons, which Mexico says account for 90% of confiscated arms here. The meeting is part of an urgent American effort to aid Mexico as it fights a bloody war against drug cartels.

    More than 6,300 people have died in drug-related violence since 2006, and some crime has spilled into the USA.

    Mexican President Felipe Calderón says little will change as long as the United States continues to make gun purchases so easy. His government is pressuring the Obama administration to tighten rules on sales, rather than just the cross-border transport of weapons.

    “It is necessary to reduce the sale of weapons, particularly of high-powered weapons, in the United States,” Calderón said Monday.

    Rep. Paul Broun, R-Ga., chairman of a group of Democrats and Republicans who support gun rights, said last week that he “will fight any attempts that infringe on our Second Amendment rights.” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said recently that she would like to see the U.S. reinstate the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban, which expired in 2004.

    Mexico’s 1917 constitution gave citizens the right to bear arms “except those expressly prohibited by law.” But after student protesters looted Mexico City gun stores during uprisings in the 1960s, the Mexican government began to clamp down on gun owners. By 1995, the government had closed the last gun stores and given the military a monopoly on gun sales.

    All privately owned guns have to be registered with the Mexican military. Owners who want to transport their firearms outside their homes need a permit that must be renewed annually.

    On Tuesday morning at the gun store, a few shoppers – all men – wandered among wooden cases filled with weapons imported by the army from all over the world. One case was filled with Colt handguns, another with Beretta rifles. Buyers waited in chairs, their papers and permits at the ready, as soldiers fetched their purchases from a storeroom.

    The heaviest stuff — assault rifles, flash-bang grenades and bulletproof vests — filled the walls in a separate room marked “For police forces only.”

    The officers who run this system acknowledge they face an uphill battle in their efforts to control Mexico’s guns.

    “I would dare say that Mexico has some of the strictest regulations about gun ownership in all the world, and we’re right next to a country … that has some of the easiest ones,” said Lt. Col. Raúl Manzano Vélez, director of the military’s civilian gun sales. “That creates a huge vacuum between the countries and feeds weapons trafficking.”

    Last week, the Department of Homeland Security announced it would send dogs, X-ray machines and more agents to the border to search southbound cars for guns and cash headed to Mexico.

    “This is a two-way street,” President Obama said during CBS’ Face the Nation news program Sunday. “We’ve got to do our part in reducing the flow of cash and guns south.”

    U.S. gun-ownership groups say they doubt that harsher rules would stem Mexico’s violence. For them, Mexico is proof that gun control doesn’t work.

    “Mexico has very strict gun laws which clearly have done nothing to prevent criminals and drug cartels from obtaining firearms, and it’s left many of the honest residents of Mexico defenseless,” said Chris Cox, chief lobbyist for the National Rifle Association.


    “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined.” -Henry David Thoreau

  • the one being made by the Obama administration. That is — the vast majority of the guns and money fueling the narco wars in Mexico come from the U.S.
    The assertions of Fox News are horseshit and clearly in service of the NRA’s and gun industry’s agenda. Conroy is looking into some deep dark waters so its impossible for me to say that his conclusions are true, but I believe his research is done well and that his intentions are honest.

  • …in terms of where they go with it, but they do also have a point – the situation is more complex than 90% of the guns come from the US. And yeah, Conroy clearly has a point – there are US-sourced military grade weapons that are accounting for some of this and the Mexican government isn’t going to forward those to the ATF (nor should they need to unless their control protocols are a lot slacker than normal). However, the gap between those two perspectives is so big that it’s pretty much impossible that one or the other fills much more than a small portion of that gap. Me, I find the gap a lot more interesting than the politics.

    “The absence of any US-Iran bilateral channel…may have the perverse effect of reinforcing Iranian interest in progressing in the nuclear realm so that the US will be forced to take it seriously and engage it directly.” ~ Richard Haass

  • Heard this originally on the BBC World Service – apparently the Mexicans have seized 35,000 weapons from drug dealers, about 19,000 of which have been assault weapons. Seems to me that characterizing the origins of that 19,000 is pretty key to any interpretation here – given the mind boggling number, it means the field is wide open for which perspective’s closer to correct.

    source

    “The absence of any US-Iran bilateral channel…may have the perverse effect of reinforcing Iranian interest in progressing in the nuclear realm so that the US will be forced to take it seriously and engage it directly.” ~ Richard Haass

  • are two different points. You’re saying things are more complicated than the data points the administration is pushing. Of course they are. Data is always an approximation at best.
    Fox on the other hand is peddling specious bullshit to service their right-wing political agenda. You can’t meet in the middle with a lying sociopath.

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