Journalist Dan Freedman penned a post for houstonchronicle.com that analyzed Mexican gun smuggling—without once mentioning the fact that a large number of the guns chronicled in his report were firearms enabled by the ATF, in what has come to be known as the Gunwalker scandal. In ATF Death Watch 7: Like It Never Happened I accused Freedman of “willful ignorance” in the name of promoting (or at least propagating) a gun control agenda. I emailed Freedman the link and asked him WTF.
Thanks for your critique of my story.
We may disagree but I think it’s valuable to hear what you have to say, so thanks for taking the time to read and respond to the story. A few points I’d make . . .
Fast and Furious. Yes, I was well aware of the allegations from whistleblowers about ATF permitting straw-purchased weapons to filter into Mexico in order to pinpoint key players in the cartels. With very severe space restrictions, I elected not to mention it because I wanted to tell a “new’’ story rather than rehash something that’s been adequately reported elsewhere. (So what was “new’’ in my story, you may be asking? It focused on 1,600 guns that U.S. court documents verified as purchased in U.S. gun stores, breaking them down by manufacturer and/or importer. Few, if any, other stories have focused on this angle.)
The main point here is that even if all the allegations of ATF negligence are true, they don’t undercut the basis of my story _ 1,600 guns purchased in the United States that “were either shipped to Mexico or intercepted en route.’’ The whistleblower allegation is that ATF was monitoring weapons purchases by known straw purchasers and did nothing to prevent the guns from getting to Mexico. These guns clearly were purchased by the traffickers’ designated hitters with the intent of shipping them to the cartels. The possibility that ATF could have prevented the actual deliveries does not change that. The investigative techniques surrounding these deliveries are under investigation and we’ll see where it goes. I’ll certainly pay attention to this in terms of future reporting.
Central America and “90 percent.’’ My story focused on 1,600 verifiable guns coming from U.S. sources, not the totality of weapons seized in Mexico. For context, I mentioned the many statements given by ATF officials before Congress, presumably under oath, that 90 percent of guns submitted by Mexican authorities for tracing via the ATF-operated tracing center were from the U.S. I also said: “Gun rights advocates doubt the accuracy of that claim.’’ Everyone knows that lawlessness in Mexico is a long-standing problem, dating back to Pancho Villa and before. Obviously there are thousands, if not millions, of weapons and munitions of every description floating around in Mexico. What is new is the influx of military-style weaponry, which changes the equation in Mexico and puts the cartels on equal (if not superior) footing with law enforcement. Whether Mexico has the technical capacity to sort out the variety and sources of all guns, to say nothing of interest, is open to speculation. Even if they did, it might not be possible, given the vagaries of scratched-off serial numbers and the incompleteness (or non-existence) of records in the U.S. and elsewhere. It was not possible for me to take on the broad spectrum of weaponry in Mexico in this story. And the fact is, nobody (not you, not me, and probably not the Mexicans) really knows the full breakdown of where these weapons come from.
Hope this gives you at least a few insights into this story.