Thursday, April 02, 2009

Stupid Like a Fox

The "free guns for everybody" crowd over at the NRA has been feeling a little heat lately on the whole issue of American guns being smuggled into Mexico, So apparently they walked down the hall to their public affairs office (operating under the name "Fox News") and put out a story titled "The Myth of 90 Percent: Only a Small Fraction of Guns in Mexico Come From U.S." which promises to debunk the notion that 90 percent of the guns used to commit crimes in Mexico come from the US.

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. By all accounts, it's probably around 17 percent.

By all accounts. If by "all," you mean "this one."

Fox points out, correctly, that the 90 percent number comes from the fact that "that over 90 percent of the traced firearms originate from the U.S." Indeed, this is an important distinction. Of all the guns whose origins can be figured out, more than 90 percent come from the US.

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.

"Not every weapon seized in Mexico has a serial number on it that would make it traceable, and the U.S. effort to trace weapons really only extends to weapons that have been in the U.S. market," Matt Allen, special agent of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), told FOX News.

Note the subtle twist, ICE says not every gun has a serial number on it. Fox says this means "it is obvious from their markings that they do not come from the U.S." What markings? The scratched-off serial number?

In 2007-2008, according to ATF Special Agent William Newell, Mexico submitted 11,000 guns to the ATF for tracing. Close to 6,000 were successfully traced -- and of those, 90 percent -- 5,114 to be exact, according to testimony in Congress by William Hoover -- were found to have come from the U.S.

But in those same two years, according to the Mexican government, 29,000 guns were recovered at crime scenes.

In other words, 68 percent of the guns that were recovered were never submitted for tracing. And when you weed out the roughly 6,000 guns that could not be traced from the remaining 32 percent, it means 83 percent of the guns found at crime scenes in Mexico could not be traced to the U.S.

By all accounts, that leaves 17 percent. If you simply assume that every gun that was, for whatever reason (Mexican cops being legendarily inept crime scene investigators), never submitted for tracing did not come from the US, and that every gun that, for whatever reason, could not be successfully traced did not come from the US, then one can, by all accounts, say that a mere 17 percent of the guns came from the United States.

Also, if you assume that every unreported and unsolved crime in the United States in the last ten years was committed by a Mexican carrying an non-American gun, then, by all accounts, Mexican guns flowing into the US are a much greater problem than US guns are in Mexico.

See how easy this is?

    Update: The MexFiles makes/passes along and excellent point:

    While Fox does get points for highlighting a secondary issue… that some of these guns are legal exports to Mexican police agencies and end up in the hands of gangsters, means those guns ALSO came from U.S. sources. It’s no secret that guns sent under State Department license end up in illegal arsenals. Bill Conroy, who has been following the “NarcoWars” for years writes in Narco News:

    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 “assault” 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.

    These “legal” purchases account for most of the Korean grenades , Israeli rocket launchers, old Soviet and other “foreign” weapons… which are legally (through State Department license) imported into the United States for resale to supposedly legitimate users. And, as it is, these exotic weapons only account for a fraction of the criminal arsenal … good old American 50-cals and AR-15s outnumber (I was gonna say “outgun”) the AKs and rocket launchers by a huge margin. I wish I could say that they only made 17% of the gangsters’ tool kit, but I doubt it’s even that high. Just that rocket launchers tend to get our attention, and get more press.


Anonymous said...

can you provide a pie chart for these statistics, please? colored slices, etc.

Burro Hall said...

This is Fox's own carefully researched pie chart (in black and white, unfortunately).

Anonymous said...

yeahhhh...that's what i'm talkin' about!

Anonymous said...

the best pie chart of the many I have been force fed lately!!

Anonymous said...

Is that Dick Cheney shooting one of his friends while on a hunting expedition?