Facts are Stubborn Things-U.S. Guns in Mexico Print
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Written by Sen Chuck Grassley   
Tuesday, 15 November 2011 14:01

Senate Judiciary Committee Oversight Hearing with Attorney General Eric Holder, Nov. 8, 2011


U.S. Guns in Mexico


Attorney General Holder: “[O]f the nearly 94,000 [weapons] that have been recovered that have been traced in Mexico in recent years, over 64,000 of those guns were sourced to the United States of America; 64,000 of 94,000 guns sourced to this country.”


The definition of a “U.S. source gun” used in these often cited statistics was not created by the ATF and is overly broad.  It includes guns manufactured in the United States even if never sold by a federally licensed gun dealer in the United States.  Such weapons may have been legally exported to foreign governments or stolen before falling into the wrong hands.  That cannot be properly blamed on Americans exercising their Second Amendment freedoms.

According to ATF statistics, of the 21,313 guns submitted for tracing by the government of Mexico in 2009, only 5,444 of them (25 percent) traced back to federally licensed gun dealers in the United States.  Similarly, in 2010, of 7,971 guns submitted for tracing by the government of Mexico, only 2,945 (37 percent) traced back to federally licensed gun dealers in the U.S.

The reason for the large disparity between the overall numbers of guns submitted in those two years is that in late 2009, the government of Mexico provided the United States with a large list of guns it had been stockpiling for years.  Accordingly, 2009’s numbers do not reflect guns that were seized exclusively in 2009, but rather for a number of the preceding years.

Additionally, any statistics on the percentage of such guns tracing back to the United States are further skewed because of selection bias.  As it has been widely noted, the government of Mexico only provides guns to the United States for tracing that they already have reason to believe originated here.  There is no reason to submit for tracing guns that are known to originate in Mexico.

In a November 8, 2011, court filing, the Chief of ATF’s Firearms Operations Division made a declaration that “in 2008, of the approximately 30,000 firearms that the Mexican Attorney General’s Office informed ATF that it had seized, only 7,200, or one quarter of those firearms, were submitted to ATF for tracing.”  Based on these statistics, it’s clear that the total sample of guns submitted for tracing is not representative of all the guns found in Mexico, and there isn’t evidence that the other 75 percent of those guns were sold in a U.S. gun store.

Documents related to the FACTS.

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