Did anyone really this....
Mexico data overstate weapons traced to U.S.
By Diana Washington Valdez / El Paso Times
Posted: 05/14/2009 12:13:53 AM MDT
EL PASO -- More than 90 percent of about 11,000 guns tied to violence in Mexico's drug wars came from the United States, but those weapons were handpicked for tracing by Mexican authorities.
The Mexican federal attorney general's staff recently acknowledged that Mexican authorities had seized 35,943 arms, including 2,800 grenades, since the crackdown against the drug cartels began in December 2006.
That means Mexico provided the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives with serial numbers for less than a third of the weapons that were seized.
The National Rifle Association and others contend that various U.S. and Mexican officials have exaggerated the number of U.S. weapons seized in Mexico to push for stricter gun controls in America.
Earlier this year, officials of the ATF stated publicly that 90 percent of the weapons recovered in Mexico in connection with drug violence were traced to the United States.
Relying on the ATF's 90 percent figure, President Barack Obama and Mexico's ambassador to the United States, Arturo Sarukhan, said U.S. guns were fueling drug violence in Mexico.
But the 90 percent figure was overblown because Mexico did not provide the ATF with serial numbers for all the weapons it seized, according to information obtained by the El Paso Times through the Freedom of Information Act.
"During fiscal years (October through September) 2007 and 2008, Mexico submitted to ATF 11,055 crime guns to be traced. ATF determined that 94 percent of those crime guns originated from various sources within the United States," the ATF said. "It is important to note that the 94 percent figure only relates to the crime guns that Mexico provided to ATF to be traced."
On Wednesday, ATF officials said about 2,800 of the 11,055 weapons were imported to the United States from other countries before they ended up in Mexico.
ATF administrators also said "a small percentage could not be determined to have a nexus to the United States."
The ATF did not respond to other questions about the traced weapons, such as how many were tracked to U.S. foreign military exports or U.S. direct commercial sales.
One skeptic said most of the seized weapons were not traced because of corruption in Mexico.
"The comandantes and policias in Mexico do not submit the serial numbers for high-value guns, such as your military-grade weapons, because they are keeping those for themselves," said El Pasoan Ramon Holguin, a military veteran and gun enthusiast.
"I know a lot of gun advocates, and not a single one of them would ever consider selling a gun to be smuggled into Mexico. We have several U.S. politicians who are using the issue to lobby for gun controls. It's part of a worldwide movement to curtail the sale of small arms." Since 2008, nearly 2,000 people have been killed in Juárez, most of them by gunfire.
Competing drug cartels are fighting over Juárez, a major smuggling corridor on the border.
"The 90 percent figure is being recklessly tossed around," said Andrew Arulanandam, spokesman for the NRA in Washington.
"It is a calculated attempt to pin the tragedy of the Mexican drug wars on the American people and the Second Amendment. The first step to fixing the problem is for Mexico to make sure the rampant corruption that exists in law enforcement, the military, judiciary and even among politicians, is eradicated."
NRA members and others suspicious of statistics about cartel weaponry said gun-control advocates have spun the numbers to advance their own interests.
Chris Cox, executive director for the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, testified on the issue in March before a U.S. House committee.
He said that activists "have used Mexico's crisis as a pretext for pushing gun show restrictions, bans on .50-caliber rifles, bans on common ammunition they portray as 'armor piercing' and more."
The United Nations and Amnesty International are among the organizations that lobby for global gun control. Harold Kohn, Obama's nominee for legal adviser to the State Department, is on record advocating global gun control.
Pete Jabber, owner of A Smokin Gun in the Upper Valley, said the nationwide demand for guns has depleted the stock in his store for several weapons.
He attributes the demand to fears that the Obama administration wants to impose new gun controls.
"I've been out of some gun stock and haven't been able to get anymore for more than a month," Jabber said. "People are afraid of impending legislation and Obama's voting record, which is anti-gun."
Most of Jabber's customers are asking for small revolvers or small automatic guns.
The Texas Department of Public Safety has reported a steady increase in concealed gun permits throughout the state. Statewide, permit holders in Texas for 2008 numbered 314,574, compared to 224,172 in 2002, about a 40 percent increase.
According to information compiled by the Federation of American Scientists, Mexico acquired $1.3 billion worth of arms and equipment through U.S. direct commercial sales between 2002 and 2007.
Some $5.8 million worth of arms and equipment were from U.S. military surplus sales between 2002 and 2006. Arms sales include pistols, rifles and grenades.
Mexican drug cartels can obtain weapons in several ways. They include black-market purchases and deal-making with Mexican military sources.