Jul 23, 2011

Weapons Traffic: ATF data defy theory, tie U.S. gun flow to cartels

ATF data defy theory, tie U.S. gun flow to cartels: "The claim that Mexican cartels rely on huge stocks of military surplus weaponry from civil wars in Central America is the mantra of pro-gun organizations fearful that linking drug violence to U.S.-purchased weapons could lead to more gun control.

Though gun-rights advocates and at least one prominent U.S. senator ferociously stand by that politically charged theory, federal firearms data show only a tiny percentage originate south of Mexico's border.

Indeed, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and others have cited the Mexico-bound flow of weapons from firearms dealers in border states including Texas and California in arguing for restoring the expired federal assault-weapons ban and other gun restrictions.

In response to a query from Feinstein, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives reported last month that of the 29,284 weapons recovered in Mexico and submitted for tracing in 2009 and 2010, a total of 20,504 - 70 percent - were "United States-sourced firearms." Virtually all of the remaining weapons were not traceable because insufficient information was submitted. ...

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, who along with Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista (San Diego County), House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman, is leading the congressional probe of Operation Fast and Furious, accused the ATF of disseminating data that "paints a grossly inaccurate picture of the situation."

Weapons seized in Mexico and submitted to the ATF for tracing represent only a small fraction of the 300,000-plus confiscated weapons that Mexican authorities keep locked up in a vault, Grassley said in a June 16 letter to ATF acting Director Kenneth Melson.

ATF officials sent a response to Grassley but declined to release it. A copy of the response obtained by Hearst Newspapers shows that of the 29,284 weapons in Mexico submitted for tracing, only 346 - 1 percent - were traced to any other nation besides the United States."

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