The media mavens at ABC need to spend a little time here at TTAG, or simply trolling the net for what are called facts. Seems The Mayors Against Illegal Guns waved a new study on the weapons used in Mexico’s OOC drug war under their journalistic snout and they forgot to ask themselves if the report was, well, bullshit. “A shocking new report obtained by ABC News says that as many as three out of four guns used in crimes in Mexico can be traced to gun stores just across the border in the U.S. The numbers bolster complaints by Mexican officials that the country’s unprecedented bloodshed – 28,000 people have died in drug-cartel violence since 2006 – is being fueled both by the U.S. appetite for drugs, and by American weapons.” Yes, it’s our fault. And here’s proof! . . .

“We can say that there is enormous violence in Mexico and most of the killing is done with guns and most of the guns used in the killing are originally from gun dealers in the United States,” said Arkado Gerney, one of the report’s authors.

The study, based on Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) data and prepared by the advocacy group Mayors Against Illegal Guns, shows that three out of four guns used in crimes in Mexico and submitted for tracing were sold in the four U.S. states that border Mexico.

I bolded that text, obviously. But I’m far from the only person who noticed that this stat, which has been bouncing around all summer, is based on guns surrendered to the U.S. for tracing by Mexico. The survey sample does NOT include all the weapons that weren’t submitted to the ATF by our neighbors to the south.

Nor does it include all the weapons that the drug lords and their thugs are using that have not been confiscated. Or were confiscated and sold back to the drug lords and their minions. In fact, how many guns are we talking about?

According to the report, from 2006 through 2009, 19,000 guns used in crimes in Mexico were traced to an original sale at a US gun dealer, and the bulk of the guns came from Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. Texas supplied four in ten of those weapons, and the other three border states provided an additional one third.

Is that for real? Are they saying that Mexico sent the ATF 19,000 guns in the last three years for tracing? I find that number highly suspect—unless some of these guns were confiscated by the crate load.

I know! Let’s click on the link to the report inside the ABC News story and see what they’re on about. For some strange reason, ABC News doesn’t link to the Mayors Against Illegal Guns or the report.

Click here to download the study in question from TTAG. Uh-oh. It’s worse than I thought!

The issue brief, which examines previously unavailable ATF data about guns recovered in Mexico and traced back to the U.S, finds that roughly 75% of the U.S. crime guns recovered in Mexico [bolding mine] originate from the four border states – with roughly 40% originating from Texas alone.

When controlling for population, three of the four border states – Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico – supply guns recovered in Mexico at a rate three times greater than the rate of the fourth border state, California. In addition, the time between the original sale of guns at U.S. gun dealers and the recovery of those guns at Mexican crime scenes is decreasing – a sign of ever more sophisticated gun trafficking.

Again, let’s be clear. This is a study of a sample of recovered guns FROM THE U.S. Not the total population of recovered guns. Here’s commentator Van Dyke’s gotcha:

I’m shocked that ABC completely missed ten minutes of fact-checking that shows this MAIG report is bull.

From a footnote of the very report discussed in the news piece:

>In addition, it is important to note that although trace data is the best available information for evaluating gun trafficking patterns, there are limitations to this data. Specifically, traced firearms do not represent all crime guns, as not all guns used in crimes are recovered, and not every recovered crime gun is traced. In addition, not all efforts to trace guns are successful. ATF cannot trace guns that were neither manufactured in nor imported through the U.S., but that affects only a small share of guns submitted from Mexico.21

That “21” indicates a footnoted citation for the footnote. An lengthy report by the GAO. You actually read it and you get this gem calling for clarification from the DHS:

DHS officials believe that the 87 percent statistic is misleading as the reference should include the number of weapons that could not be traced (i.e. out of approximately 30,000 weapons seized in Mexico, approximately 4,000 could be traced and 87 percent of those — 3,480 — originated in the United States.) Numerous problems with the data collection and sample population render this assertion as unreliable.

So you have 3,480 out of 30,000. Looks like a famous 10%.

Here’s another question: if the ATF knows so much about all these American guns wending their way from Mexican border states to the drug lords, why don’t they find the gun runners and arrest them?

Truth be told, Mexican drug lords can afford to pay 10 times over the odds for their weapons. Maybe even a hundred times. Anyone want to guess how many guns are coming in to Mexico from Eastern Europe? Mayors? ATF? Anyone?

6 Responses to ABC Gets it Wrong on American Guns in Mexican Drug War

  1. Part of the reason for the precipitous decline of the major media is their failure to consider the effect of rampant fact checking in the age of the Internet (and other participatory media).

    If ordinary people can check facts, the media no longer holds a monopoly. Much like when ordinary citizens can possess firearms, the government no longer holds a monopoly.

    Good job.

    Even if most guns were from the US (they are not), how many of them were transferred government to government (or by approval of the US) to the Mexican police and military?

    No one has ever (it seems) investigated that figure….

  2. 1- The guns used in crimes in Mexico and traced back to US represent an small part of all gun traffic because many guns flow from the Southern border between Mexico and Guatemala and Belize, many from the central american wars of El Salvador and Nicaragua from the Reagan times.
    2- If you stop the flow of guns, an industry will be created locally, because of the social and economic problems created by the Milton Friedman economic failure to get answers to the people in the world, you should see these problems created by the few to steal the rights and opportunities of the most.
    3- The world would see the anarchy to be grow as the pockets of the few increase in the stealing of the world resources by the transnational enterprises, until the people understend who is the real enemy and how to fight it.

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