Senators Feinstein, Schumer and Whitehouse on Halting U.S. Firearms Trafficking to Mexico

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 9 months ago

Background

We all know about Project Gunrunner, as it is formally called by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE).  We also know about the scandal it has been and is steadily becoming, with Congressional hearings pending and the bureau still stonewalling and using delaying tactics over Congressional inquiries.  We don’t know yet what will come of the hearings, but the BATFE and administration support troops have tipped their hand concerning their strategy.

Senators Dianne Feinstein, Charles Schumer and Sheldon Whitehouse have issued a report entitled Halting U.S. Firearms Trafficking to Mexico.  Within a few days of releasing this study, The Washington Post and CNN parroted the talking points in respective articles.  The study itself is as remarkable for the misrepresentation of the facts concerning firearms trafficking to Mexico as it is for its recommendations for statutory remedies.

Analysis & Commentary

Before discussing the Feinstein recommendations it’s necessary to rehearse the demolition that Scott Stewart at STRATFOR performed of the myth that 90% of the weapons seized in Mexico were of American origin.

For several years now, STRATFOR has been closely watching developments in Mexico that relate to what we consider the three wars being waged there. Those three wars are the war between the various drug cartels, the war between the government and the cartels, and the war being waged against citizens and businesses by criminals.

In addition to watching tactical developments of the cartel wars on the ground and studying the dynamics of the conflict among the various warring factions, we have also been paying close attention to the ways that both the Mexican and U.S. governments have reacted to these developments. Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects to watch has been the way in which the Mexican government has tried to deflect responsibility for the cartel wars away from itself and onto the United States. According to the Mexican government, the cartel wars are not a result of corruption in Mexico or of economic and societal dynamics that leave many Mexicans marginalized and desperate to find a way to make a living. Instead, the cartel wars are due to the insatiable American appetite for narcotics and the endless stream of guns that flows from the United States into Mexico and that results in Mexican violence.

Interestingly, the part of this argument pertaining to guns has been adopted by many politicians and government officials in the United States in recent years. It has now become quite common to hear U.S. officials confidently assert that 90 percent of the weapons used by the Mexican drug cartels come from the United States. However, a close examination of the dynamics of the cartel wars in Mexico — and of how the oft-echoed 90 percent number was reached — clearly demonstrates that the number is more political rhetoric than empirical fact.

As we discussed in a previous analysis, the 90 percent number was derived from a June 2009 U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report to Congress on U.S. efforts to combat arms trafficking to Mexico (see external link).

According to the GAO report, some 30,000 firearms were seized from criminals by Mexican authorities in 2008. Of these 30,000 firearms, information pertaining to 7,200 of them (24 percent) was submitted to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) for tracing. Of these 7,200 guns, only about 4,000 could be traced by the ATF, and of these 4,000, some 3,480 (87 percent) were shown to have come from the United States.

This means that the 87 percent figure relates to the number of weapons submitted by the Mexican government to the ATF that could be successfully traced and not from the total number of weapons seized by Mexican authorities or even from the total number of weapons submitted to the ATF for tracing. In fact, the 3,480 guns positively traced to the United States equals less than 12 percent of the total arms seized in Mexico in 2008 and less than 48 percent of all those submitted by the Mexican government to the ATF for tracing. This means that almost 90 percent of the guns seized in Mexico in 2008 were not traced back to the United States.

The most recent data that Feinstein cites, given to her by the BATFE, makes the same observation of the data, and that, by acting director Kenneth Melson.

There are no United States Government sources that maintain any record of the total number of criminal firearms seized in Mexico.  ATF reports relate only to firearms recovered in Mexico that were subsequently traced by ATF based upon firearms identifiers submitted to ATF by the Mexican government.  The Mexican government does not submit every recorded firearm to ATF for tracing …

Which point therefore makes the conclusions one can draw from the data very limited.  But that’s not how the Feinstein report paints the picture.  Right in the background statement, we read that “In a June 2009 report, the Government Accountability Office stated that around 87% of firearms seized by Mexican authorities and traced over the previous five years originated in the United States.”  The Washington Post was quick to pick up on the deconstructed meme, saying that “Of the 29,284 firearms recovered by authorities in Mexico in 2009 and 2010, 20,504 came from the United States, according to figures provided to the senators by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.”  This is clearly not factually correct, as many more firearms were seized by the Mexican authorities than 29,284.

In testimony to the dictum that if you repeat a lie enough times it will eventually be taken as truth, the 90% myth is now mainstream, and I have called out The St. Petersburg Times for relying on the myth for their editorials (with no response).  Senators Feinstein, Schumer and Whitehouse must be relying on the same dictum, because their wish list of increased firearms control measures is so expansive and draconian that it seems ridiculous to have connected all of this to a single effort.  The senators recommend:

  1. Closing the so-called gun show loophole in the laws.
  2. Redoubling efforts to enforce an import ban on weapons that fall into the category of military style weapons (e.g., with features such as pistol grip, forend grip, rails for tactical lights, high capacity magazines, etc.).  I have previously covered and commented on this ATF effort for shotguns.
  3. Reinstating the assault weapons ban.
  4. Multiple sales reporting to the federal government.
  5. Ratification of the The Inter-American Convention Against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking of Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives and Other Related Materials (CIFTA).

And the justification for all of this?  Earlier in the report, Feinstein and staff discuss the laudable job that the ATF did with project gunrunner, but lament the fact that it alone cannot curb the trafficking of firearms to Mexico.

And now the loyal troops tip their hands.  To be sure, for a progressive, any increase in the power of government is a good thing.  All societal problems stem from a lack of regulation and oversight, all evil has its solution in more laws.  So the senators (and the administration) want what they can get out of this effort, if anything.  But something in the wind is foul.

With the coming Congressional investigations of project gunrunner and the illegality and inappropriateness of such a program, the administration and its troops see vulnerability.  Senators Feinstein, Schumer and Whitehouse are snipers picking at the advancing Congressional column with enfilade fire.  This effort is likely a decoy, a hastily designed effort to squeeze what they can from the failed gunrunner project, protect their flanks and split the advancing column.

Second amendment advocates must be diligent, and Senator Feinstein’s efforts should be monitored, analyzed and opposed.  But the real purpose of this report and its recommendations is to be a battlefield ruse.  With its lack of substantiation of the data, the lack of a basis for the recommendations, and the lack of analysis of the information, it’s as much of an admission of vulnerability and culpability as it is a last gasp effort to deny second amendment rights to American citizens.

Prior:

Project Gunrunner: White House and DoJ Knowledge and Oversight

Analysis of ATF Study on the Importability of Certain Shotguns

Legislation on High Capacity Magazines

Cost Cutting Ideas for the Federal Government

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17 Comments on "Senators Feinstein, Schumer and Whitehouse on Halting U.S. Firearms Trafficking to Mexico"

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Warbucks
Guest
For what it’s worth, I believe you to be spot-on with your facts, analysis and conclusions. Somewhere along the way, I want to respond to the John Steinbeck instinct that the people we should be listening to are the campesino class and the weak middle class of Mexico on the matter of their peace movement. I find it unsavory that we in the US, as a society can maintain laws on our books that create the conditions that lead to the primary cause of the killings in Mexico. In no small part, I feel culpable and ashamed for our arrogance. There is at least another aspect which you refer to but I think it is the larger and controlling dynamic in the equation, Guns and Drugs are fungible commodities just like oil in the international market place. The profit margins in the illicit drug trade black market is the real target we need to focus on. So far all our actions world wide seem to be to protect vast secret empires and government’s to keep the drugs flowing through the continuance of policies that protect the Black Market profit margins…. sort of the definition of insanity, doing the same thing… Read more »
Warbucks
Guest

Herschel, what are you trying to do, make an honest man out me? Never!

Full-on Libertarian? You mean like Cole Porter …. “Anything Goes” ?

Sheeeez! I am not a member of the Libertarian Party, but I do admire their speakers for public office as they always leave a favorable impression on 98% of the issues.

I’m thinking more like I can accept 10+ million people who are taking drugs now finding ways of doing it legally like the other 200-million of us that drink alcohol legally, with non-profit public service organizations like AA stepping in and working with those who want help.

MethanP
Guest

We are seeing the big lie in action The GAO numbers were quickly disproved, by you among others. The stoy died down. Now its back as if
it was always the truth. So keep up the fight!

Lina Invere
Guest

Warbucks and Herschel: good discussion. Let me pose my favorite framing question: is the War on Drugs compatible with a free nation (or a nation of ordered liberty or whatever you want to call it)?

Back in, say, the early ’90s when the gun grabbers were still riding their Federal legislative high and the nationwide sweep of shall issue concealed carry laws was in its infancy (Florida got it going in 1987) I would have said no. Now I’m not so sure, but I sure am concerned that I’m more concerned about my local police than official criminals (details on request, but it’s an alarming change from when I grew up in this smallish city in the ’60s and ’70s).

Warbucks
Guest

“is the War on Drugs compatible with a free nation ?”

Your question comes from mind of a philosopher.

Warbucks
Guest
My local Oakland Tribune (of The Alameda Newspaper Group) http://tiny.cc/we6ai offers the very mindset our nation’s war on drugs has lead to. The War On Drugs does not work on any level. We are foolishly transforming our nation into an armed SWAT response. We see these tactics dominate our headlines our police response in ever increasing cycles of a fear based response. Herschel’s point is confirmed that our prisons only radicalize criminals.   “Transnational gangs form alliance with Mexican cartel, becoming more sophisticated in trafficking drugs, guns, people” By Scott Johnson “LOS BANOS — Evidence is increasing that California prison gangs are forging close relationships with powerful drug-trafficking cartels in Mexico, according to U.S. law enforcement officials and gang experts who say the relationships have moved into a dangerous new area as Mexican cartels and American gangs swap tactical information, share intelligence and exchange techniques to avoid detection. ” “What we’re seeing is that highly sophisticated gangs, operating out of the prison system or from cartels in Mexico, are shot-calling, and then farming out the work to local street gangs in California, like the Norteños,” state Attorney General Kamala Harris said recently by phone from Los Banos, the scene of a… Read more »
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Warbucks
Guest

Is this to stand as US End Game strategy for all of history? http://www.captainsjournal.com/2011/06/20/the-taliban-strategy-of-nuristan/

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Gustine Coyote
Guest
Feinstein is a Fascist liar. Her cronies in social crime Pelosi, Boxer and Waters are nothing more than Hitler followers who will stop nothing short of Nazi measures to promote their extreme Leftwing agenda to enslave and systematically exterinate any who oppose them. Hold to your religion like the Jews did but hold your firearms rights even more. You will need both to endure the bloodbath that these women want to do to the American people. They are more dangerous than Stalin or Hitler ever dreamed of being. Feinstein is letting thousands of Hispanic children and their parents starve to death in the Central Valley of California because she is backing environmentalists stop agricultural water flow to be stopped becuse of a non native bait fish in the Delta. If a person will starve children what do you think she has in store for you. This comment is for you ignorant leftwing college students in Berkeley who have no clue who puts a roof over your head, gives you your meals and a toilet to flush your crap. Wake up you morons. Obama have you Change and now you have nothing but Hope to save your sorry asses for voting… Read more »
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The Captain's Journal » Report: Gun-Walking Not Part Of The Plan

[…] approach is the same as the one used by Dianne Feinstein: blame it all on lack of regulations and laws.  And for an administration that claims Fast and […]

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You are currently reading "Senators Feinstein, Schumer and Whitehouse on Halting U.S. Firearms Trafficking to Mexico", entry #7106 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) BATFE,Featured,Federal Firearms Laws,Firearms,Mexico,Obama Administration,Project Gunrunner,Second Amendment and was published June 14th, 2011 by Herschel Smith.

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