Earlier this week, we discussed the fact that while those in favor of ever more restrictions on that which shall not be infringed like to toss around (large) figures relating to the percentage of seized (and traced) Mexican “crime guns” that come from U.S. gun shops, what they studiously avoid discussing is what percentage of the seized guns actually are traced. That, of course, is rather critical information being withheld, particularly given the fact that a year and a half ago, when U.S. gun dealers were supposedly supplying “90%” of the traced Mexican “crime guns,” only about 25% of the seized guns were being traced (according to Sen. John Kerry–who certainly won’t be accused of doctoring figures for the sake of the “gun lobby”).
In Tuesday’s article, I offered my own theory as to why we can’t get any recent, definitive percentages:
The only plausible reason for not sharing that little detail is that the percentage is low enough that it hurts the case the gun-haters are trying to make, rather than helps it. And that leads us to one more question, although it’s an elementary one–why doesn’t the BATFE trace a very high percentage of the seized guns? What plausible answer to that question can there be, other than that a large proportion of those guns have never been on the U.S. commercial market, and thus tracing them would undermine the case the gun-haters are trying to make?
Yesterday’s Washington Post offers what might be considered another explanation.
But much of the data is so incomplete as to be useless and has not helped authorities bust the gunrunners who supply the Mexican mafias with their vast armories, officials said.
Hmm . . . “so incomplete as to be useless?” How “complete” does such data have to be, in order to be useful–wouldn’t make, model, and serial number be adequate? If the information provided by Mexican authorities doesn’t include that, what are they telling us about the seized guns–what color they are, or that they’re “scary looking”?
The article goes on to mention that Mexican authorities have not prosecuted one major arms trafficking case.
OK–so why can’t the BATFE get useful information from the Mexican government, which has made clear, after all, that it wants U.S. gun laws made much more strict–one would think that this would be a superb incentive to give the gun-haters on this side of the border the information they need to bolster their arguments (such as they are) for more draconian gun laws. This is especially puzzling, given the fact that Mexico was provided with the BATFE’s “eTrace” system three years ago, and the over $1 billion in aid we’re sending to Mexico, specifically earmarked for fighting the cartels.
The WaPo article then tries to make excuses for that–it took two years to translate the program into Spanish, and in all this time, only a dozen Mexican law enforcement agents have been trained to use it? If the tracing is expected to be of such help, why hasn’t it been pursued a bit more aggressively?
And in fact it turns out that a recent figure for the percentage of seized guns traced by the BATFE has been recently made available, and it’s not very impressive:
The report [available here] states that only about 30 percent of the trace requests submitted by Mexico to the ATF are successful.
Keep in mind that even that is not the percentage of guns seized, but the percentage of those submitted to the BATFE for tracing. We’re still not being told what proportion of the seized guns are not submitted to the BATFE at all–but if, in the highly unlikely event that all the seized guns are submitted to the BATFE, and “80%” of those successfully traced really do come from the U.S., we have only accounted for about 24% of the guns. And of course, guns “from the U.S.” would also include these, which have nothing to do with the civilian gun market–from the Los Angeles Times:
These groups appear to be taking advantage of a robust global black market and porous borders, especially between Mexico and Guatemala. Some of the weapons are left over from the wars that the United States helped fight in Central America, U.S. officials said.
Going back to the WaPo article, we get to the money quote:
The U.S. government and Mexico both refuse to release the results of the traces.
And again I must ask, “Why?“
And at the end, we get this:
In an interview, [Deputy Director Kenneth] Melson said the ATF would no longer release such figures “because these percentages have been misused, misinterpreted, for political agendas on both sides of the gun issue.
I don’t know about “both sides,” Deputy Director Melson, but I certainly agree with your assertion that the figures have been misused for a political agenda.
Remember Deputry Director Melson’s words whenever you are told that the U.S. civilian gun market has supplied the Mexican drug cartels with some outrageously high percentage of their firepower.