NSSF Responds: Mexican President Call to US Ban on "Assault Weapons"
 

Second Amendment: House Blocks Record-Keeping Regulation

Violence in Mexico by drug gangs with guns is all the fault of the United States. That seems to be the attitude of those at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATFE) who proposed a regulation forcing gun sellers in states bordering Mexico to report within five business days the multiple sales of certain semi-automatic weapons. As part of the backlash against an overly restrictive government, however, the House recently passed an amendment, authored by Reps. Dan Boren (D-OK) and Denny Rehberg (R-MT) to the 2011 fiscal year continuing budgetary resolution (H.R. 1) stripping funding for BATFE to enforce the restriction.

On another front cherished by gun-grabbers, a bill sponsored by Rep. Mike Ross (D-AR) to restore gun rights granted to District of Columbia residents by the Supreme Court's Heller decision (and rescinded by the District's City Council) is awaiting consideration -- that bill is H.R. 645.

In their haste to enact more regulation, BATFE seems to have forgotten that existing law already allows the federal government to examine records at gun shops as a matter of course. Moreover, the proposal ignores the fact that Mexican drug cartels routinely purchase weapons on the black market. No law we enact will stop that, just as the gun restrictions piled on by the District of Columbia's City Council haven't stopped gun crime in DC. But facts can't get in the way of circumventing the Second Amendment, can they?

The Patriot Post

Pentagon Fingered as a Source of Narco-Firepower in Mexico

The Big Clubs in Mexico’s Drug War Aren’t Slipping Through the Gun-Show Loophole

Another series of leaked State Department cables made public this week by WikiLeaks lend credence to investigative reports on gun trafficking and the drug war published by Narco News as far back as 2009.

The big battles in the drug war in Mexico are “not being fought with Saturday night specials, hobby rifles and hunting shotguns,” Narco News reported in March 2009, against the grain, at a time when the mainstream media was pushing a narrative that assigned the blame for the rising tide of weapons flowing into Mexico to U.S. gun stores and gun shows.

Rather, we reported at the time, “the drug trafficking organizations are now in possession of high-powered munitions in vast quantities that can’t be explained by the gun-show loophole.”

Those weapons, found in stashes seized by Mexican law enforcers and military over the past several years, include U.S.-military issued rifles, machine guns, grenade launchers and explosives.

The State Department cables released recently by WikiLeaks support Narco News’ reporting and also confirm that our government is very aware of the fact that U.S military munitions are finding their way into Mexico, and into the hands of narco-trafficking organizations, via a multi-billion dollar stream of private-sector and Pentagon arms exports.

Narco News, in a report in December 2008 [“Juarez murders shine a light on an emerging Military Cartel”] examined the increasing militarization of narco-trafficking groups in Mexico and pointed out that U.S. military-issued ammunition popped up in an arms cache seized in Reynosa, Mexico, in November 2008 that was linked to the Zetas, a mercenary group that provides enforcement services to Mexican narco-trafficking organizations.

Tosh Plumlee, a former CIA asset who still has deep connections in the covert world, told Narco News recently that a special-operations task force under Pentagon command, which has provided training to Mexican troops south of the border, has previously “… found [in Mexico] hundreds of [U.S.-made] M-67s [grenades] as well as thousands of rounds of machine gun-type ammo, .50 [and] .30 [caliber] and the famous [U.S.-made] M-16 — most later confirmed as being shipped from Guatemala into Mexico as well as from USA vendors. …”
Similarly, an AP video report from May 2009 confirms that “M16 machine guns” have been seized from Mexican criminal groups engaged in the drug war.

“It’s unclear how cartels are getting military grade weapons,” the AP report states. 

Narco News offered an answer to that question in March 2009, when it reported that 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.

Those exports are approved through the State Department, under a program known as Direct Commercial Sales. A sister program, called Foreign Military Sales, is overseen by the Pentagon and also taps U.S. contractors to manufacture weapons (such as machine guns and grenades) for export to foreign entities, including companies and governments.

Between 2005 and 2009, a total of $41 billion worth of U.S. defense articles were exported under the FMS program and a total of nearly $60 billion via the DCS program, according to a recent U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report. The bulk of those exports went to seven nations, including South Korea, but Mexico, too, was a receiving nation, with some $204 million in military arms shipments approved for export in fiscal year 2008 alone, according to the most recently available DCS report.

So, based on that evidence, it is clear that there is a grand river of military-grade munitions flowing out of major gun factories in the U.S. and being exported globally — completely bypassing the mom-and-pop gun store. That river of doom, however, does not bypass the drug war in Mexico.

The WikiLeaks Cables

Two separate diplomatic cables that came out of the U.S. consulate in Monterrey, Mexico, in early 2009 discuss drug war-related attacks on the U.S. consulate in that city as well as on a Monterrey TV station — with each incident involving the use of U.S. military grenades.

From a State Department cable created on Jan. 12, 2009, by the American Consul General in Monterrey and sent to the Secretary of State, U.S. Northcom and other U.S. consulates:

On January 6 the Televisa TV station in Monterrey was attacked by unknown assailants, who shot eight .40 caliber rounds into the station wall and threw a grenade over a fence into the parking lot, which exploded but did not injure anyone.

… The Consulate [in Monterrey] was attacked in a similar manner on October 11, 2008, and is located approximately one mile from the Televisa station.

… The investigators recovered the grenade fuse spoon, which appears to be from a US military M67 fragmentation grenade. ATF is investigating if any M67 grenades from this lot were exported to foreign militaries. The M67 grenade is different than the M26 grenade [an older U.S.-made grenade from the Vietnam era] used to attack the Consulate on October 11, but five M67 grenades were recovered during a raid several days after the Consulate attack in a Gulf Cartel warehouse. [Emphasis added.]

So the State Department cable makes clear that the attacks on the TV station and on the consulate itself involved military grade explosives made in the USA that somehow found their way to Mexico. A second cable issued in March 2009 lays out the plausible path those grenades followed on their journey to Mexico’s drug war.

From a cable issued by the U.S. Consulate in Monterrey on March 3, 2009, and sent to the Secretary of State, the FBI as well as various other consulates:

AmConsulate General Monterrey's ATF Office, the ATF Explosives Technology Branch, and AmEmbassy Mexico DAO have been working with Mexican law enforcement authorities to identify the origin of various grenades and other explosive devices recovered locally over the past few months, including the unexploded M26A2 fragmentation grenade hurled at the Consulate itself during the October 11, 2008 attack. Other ordnance recovered includes 21 grenades recovered by Mexican law enforcement on October 16, 2008 after a raid at a narco-warehouse in Guadalupe (a working class suburb of Monterrey), and twenty-five 40mm explosive projectiles, a U.S. M203 40mm grenade launcher, and three South Korean K400 fragmentation grenades recovered the same day in an abandoned armored vehicle that suspected narco-traffickers used to escape apprehension.

Local Mexican law enforcement has recovered a Grenade spoon and pull ring from an exploded hand grenade used in a January 6, 2009 attack on Televisa Monterrey, a Monterrey television station. Based upon ATF examination, it appears that the grenade used in the attack on the Consulate has the same lot number, and is of similar design and style, as the three of the grenades found at the narco-warehouse in Guadalupe. On January 7, 2009, the Mexican Army recovered 14 [U.S.-made] M-67 fragmentation grenades and 1 K400 fragmentation grenade in Durango City, Durango. ....

The lot numbers of some of the grenades recovered, including the grenade used in the attack on Televisa, indicate that previously ordnance with these same lot numbers may have been sold by the USG [U.S. Government] to the El Salvadoran military in the early 1990s via the Foreign Military Sales program. We would like to thank AmEmbassy San Salvador for its ongoing efforts to query the Government of El Salvador as whether any of its stocks of grenades and other munitions have been diverted or are otherwise unaccounted for. [Emphasis added.]

Again, this is the U.S. state Department confirming that it suspects U.S. military munitions sold in the 1990s to a foreign military were subsequently diverted to Mexican narco-traffickers.

Narco News sources indicate that it is likely some of the U.S. military weapons now being used by Mexican narco-trafficking groups may be from a past era, but they also contend it is likely a number of those weapons, such as the guns, have been rebuilt for the current drug war.

Former CIA asset Plumlee told Narco News:

There was some talk among [U.S.] task force members about  a ... gun-making operation ongoing in or around Oaxaca, Mexico, more like a “refurbish” type operation from old stored weapons from the old Contra days (1980-‘90 era). [There’s] a lot of those weapons still around Panama and El Salvador. I was told most of those old weapons were “burned out" and of not much value. However, if there was a supplier or someone who could retrofit these weapons [they] could be fixed and moved just about anywhere....

And as food for thought on that front, a former U.S. Customs Inspector, who asked that his name not be used, brought to Narco News’ attention a federal criminal case now pending in U.S. court in Nashville.

In that case, five top officials with a gun manufacturer called Sabre Defence Industries LLC stand accused of illegally trafficking gun parts, such as gun barrels and components, on an international scale. Sabre, now shut down in the wake of its run-in with the feds, made and marketed assault rifles and machine-gun components for military, law enforcement and civilian use worldwide.

In fact, its biggest client was the U.S. military, which had awarded it contracts worth up to $120 million “for the manufacture of, among other things, M16 rifles and .50 caliber machine gun barrels,” according to the indictment returned in mid-January of this year against the company and its officers.

“The indictment unsealed today alleges a nearly decade-long scheme to thwart U.S. import/export restrictions on firearms and their components,” said Lanny A. Breuer, an assistant attorney general with the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division, in a press statement released on Feb. 8. “The defendants allegedly went to great lengths to conceal their activities and evade U.S. laws – mislabeling packages, falsifying shipping records, and maintaining a fictitious set of books and records, among other things. The illegal trade of firearms and their components poses serious risks and, as this case shows, we cannot and will not tolerate it.”

Federal authorities have not released any details on where the Sabre-made gun parts ended up, though the indictment alleges many of the parts were shipped overseas.

As a note of caution, however, the former Customs inspector points out that once a criminal group has a supply of parts, setting up a gun-making operation is not a complicated matter.

“For the small arms, and I would include, for simplicity, everything up to and including M2 .50 BMG machine guns, and even the 40 mm grenade launcher, M19, you can put them together on the kitchen table, or on the workbench in the garage,” the former inspector says.

For now, though, it simply is not known whether any of Sabre’s weapons parts ended up in gun-making chop shops south of the U.S. border, or elsewhere, or whether any of the M16s it made for the U.S. military were later provided to the Mexican government — via the FMS or DCS programs — and subsequently diverted by corrupt officials to narco-trafficking groups.

But the State Department cables recently made public by WikiLeaks do seem to confirm that the U.S. government is very aware that much of the heavy firepower now in the hands of Mexican criminal organizations isn’t linked to mom-and-pop gun stores, but rather the result of blowback from U.S. arms-trading policies (both current and dating back to the Iran/Contra era) that put billions of dollars of deadly munitions into global trade stream annually.

As the death toll mounts in the drug war now raging in Mexico, it pays to remember that weapons trafficking, both government-sponsored and illegal, is a big business that feeds and profits off that carnage. Bellicose government policies, such as the U.S.-sponsored Merida Initiative, that are premised on further militarizing the effort to impose prohibition on civil society only serve to expand the profit margin on the bloodshed.

http://narcosphere.narconews.com/notebook/bill-conroy/2011/02/pentagon-fingered-source-narco-firepower-mexico

Firearms Industry Responds to
Mexican President's Calls for the U.S. to
Reinstitute its Ban on Modern Sporting Rifles 

NEWTOWN, Conn -- Following calls by Mexican President Felipe Calderon that the United States re-institute a ban on modern sporting rifles, or so-called "assault weapons," the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) -- the trade association for America's firearms industry -- issued the following statement:

"While we respect the work of President Calderon to willingly take on his country's powerful drug cartels, we are disappointed that he, in the name of security, would urge our Congress to reinstitute a failed ban on so-called 'assault weapons.'

"Let's be clear, semi-automatic rifles, demonized as so-called 'assault weapons,' are not machine guns but modern sporting rifles that are used every day by law-abiding Americans for the shooting sports, hunting and home protection. Since 2004, when the Clinton/Gore 'assault weapons' ban expired, modern sporting rifles have fast become one of the most popular types of firearms for law-abiding Americans to purchase.

"Firearms that Congress would label "assault weapons' are functionally no different than any other semi-automatic civilian sporting firearm. They shoot only one shot per trigger pull, no spray firing as some allege, and use the same ammunition as other guns of the same caliber. What differentiates modern sporting rifles from other guns is cosmetic; for example, the type of stock on the firearm.

"According to the Department of Justice, so-called "assault weapons" are rarely used in crimes (less than 2 percent). Furthermore, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has established that banning firearms and ammunition have no effect on crime levels.

"Some 29,000 firearms were recovered in Mexico in 2008, of which approximately 5,000 were traced to U.S. sources. That means more than 80 percent of the firearms recovered in Mexico were not traced to the United States. Furthermore, according to the ATF, those firearms traced were originally sold at retail not recently, but on average 14 years earlier. This is completely inconsistent with any notion that a flood of newly purchased firearms are being illegally smuggled over the border into Mexico. And let's not forget, no retail firearms sale can be made in the U.S. until after a criminal background check on the purchaser has been completed.

"In recent years as many as 150,000 Mexican soldiers, 17,000 last year alone, defected to go work for the drug cartels - bringing their American-made service-issued firearms with them. It has also been well documented that the drug cartels are illegally smuggling fully automatic firearms, grenades and other weapons into Mexico from South and Central America. Such items are not being purchased at retail firearms stores in the United States.

"Even more, investigations and regulatory compliance inspections by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) into firearms trafficking along the Southwest border have confirmed that firearms retailers are law-abiding businessmen and women who are playing a key role in detecting and deterring illegal purchases of firearms. As part of a Project Gun Runner Impact Team firearms trafficking operation, more than 1100 firearms retailers were inspected by ATF. Of these inspections only one retailer license was revoked. One.

"Members of the firearms industry take seriously the criminal acquisition and misuse of their products. This is why our industry supports the Southwest Border Violence Reduction Act of 2009, sponsored by Sen. Bingaman (D-NM) and Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D-TX), and will continue to work cooperatively with law enforcement. For nearly a decade our industry has partnered with the ATF in a national campaign called Don't Lie for the Other Guy that makes the public aware that it is a serious crime to illegally straw purchase a firearm. The program also helps ATF to educate firearms retailers to be better able to detect and prevent illegal straw purchases. It is our hope that Don't Lie will once again receive grant funding from the Department of Justice – a move that would allow NSSF and ATF to further expand this worthwhile program. For the last year, Don't Lie has been financed entirely by members of the firearms industry.

"Again, we applaud President Calderon for taking steps to stop the cartels when past Mexican administrations paid only lip service and allowed rampant corruption to fester. Still, it is wrong for anyone to blame the Second Amendment and America's firearms industry for the problems Mexico is currently facing.

"Sacrificing the constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans will not make Mexico safer – especially when the sacrifice is rooted in unfounded allegations and hyperbole. President Calderon would be doing both his country and ours a favor if instead of pushing for already failed crime-control measures, he used his time in the United States to call for proven methods to combat criminal acts, such as putting more cops on the street and more prosecutors in the court rooms.".

-30-

About NSSF

The National Shooting Sports Foundation is the trade association for the firearms industry. Its mission is to promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports. Formed in 1961, NSSF has a membership of more than 5,500 manufacturers, distributors, firearms retailers, shooting ranges, sportsmen's organizations and publishers. For more information, log on to www.nssf.org.

President Obama's call for the Senate to ratify a hemispheric small-firearms treaty dominated his last visit to Mexico, but in the four months since, both the treaty pledge and the drug violence that prompted it have dropped off the radar - a victim of Congress' full schedule and gun politics.

That means on Sunday Mr. Obama will go with an empty hand to Mexico, which blames the U.S. for many of the weapons used by drug cartels that have violently thwarted a crackdown by Mexican authorities.

And even though Mr. Obama and his administration have accepted that blame, prospects are dim for passage of the treaty, which calls on countries to license gun manufacturers and try to control illicit trafficking in firearms, ammunition and explosives.

The chief U.S. negotiator for the 1997 treaty, known by its Spanish acronym of CIFTA, says it was written specifically to avoid forcing the U.S. to change its laws, and says it does not give any other country a say over what is legal or illegal in the U.S. - and that gun-rights groups were even involved in writing parts of the treaty.

But the National Rifle Association now claims CIFTA could hurt hunters and says U.S. Second Amendment interests should not be controlled by an international treaty. Key senators such as Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat whose gun-rights credentials may be crucial to his winning re-election next year, was cool to Mr. Obama's call for ratification in April, and a spokesman said nothing has changed since.

"We must work with Mexico to curtail the violence and drug trafficking on America's southern border, and must protect Americans' Second Amendment rights," Mr. Reid said in April. "I look forward to working with the president to ensure we do both in a responsible way."

Treaties require a two-thirds vote by the Senate to be ratified - probably an impossible goal, given opposition from both sides of the aisle.

Chris W. Cox, the National Rifle Association's chief lobbyist, would not give a tally, but said that "there are a number of both Republicans and Democrats who share our concerns about the potential for abuse should this treaty be ratified."

On his two-day trip, Mr. Obama is expected to meet first with Mexican President Felipe Calderon - both men will then meet with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The White House says that talking, even without having any tangible "deliverables" to show for it, is important.

"We will see more of these dialogues in the future and at a relatively frequent pace," National Security Adviser James L. Jones, a retired Marine general, told reporters in previewing the trip. "From that, I think good things will come."

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/aug/09/prospects-dim-for-firearms-treaty/?source=newsletter_must-read-stories-today_headlines

PELOSI: 'WE WANT REGISTRATION'; HOLDER: 2A WON'T 'STAND IN THE WAY'; SAF: 'GLOVES ARE OFF'

BELLEVUE, WA – Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on April 7 acknowledged that gun registration is on her agenda, days after Attorney General Eric Holder told reporters in Mexico that the Second Amendment would not “stand in the way” of administration plans to crack down on alleged gun trafficking to Mexico.

“These are alarming remarks from Speaker Pelosi and Attorney General Holder,” said Second Amendment Foundation founder Alan Gottlieb. “It appears that the Obama administration and Capitol Hill anti-gunners have dropped all pretences about their plans for gun owners’ rights, and it looks like the gloves are coming off.”

Pelosi’s revelation came during an interview on ABC’s Good Morning, America. While insisting that Congress “never denied” the gun rights of American Citizens, Pelosi told Roberts, “We want them registered. We don’t want them crossing state linesÂ…” Gottlieb noted that citizens’ rights do not stop at state lines.

“But that doesn’t really matter,” he observed. “History has shown that around the world, registration has always led to confiscation.”

In Mexico, according to the Wall Street Journal, Holder was asked if the administration might encounter constitutional issues as it tries to crack down on alleged gun trafficking. His response: “I don’t think our Second Amendment will stand in the way of efforts we have begun and will expand upon.”

“These comments belie administration promises and Democrat rhetoric that party leaders respect the rights of law-abiding Americans to own the firearm of their choice,” Gottlieb said. “They imposed registration of semi-autos in Pelosi’s California and it led to a ban, but it certainly didn’t disarm criminals, like the convicted felon who killed four Oakland police officers last month. We know from Holder that the Obama administration wants to renew the nationwide ban on such firearms, but that won’t prevent crime, either.

“The administration and Congressional anti-gunners have declared war on gun rights,” Gottlieb said. “The press seems deliberately blind to the statements from Pelosi and Holder, who blame our gun rights for their incompetence in dealing with crime. More than 90 million gun owners haven’t hurt anybody, and they are tired of being treated like criminals.”

Second Amendment Foundation http://www.saf.org/

The Myth of 90 Percent: Only a Small Fraction of Guns in Mexico Come From U.S.

While 90 percent of the guns traced to the U.S. actually originated in the United States, the percent traced to the U.S. is only about 17 percent of the total number of guns reaching Mexico.

By William La Jeunesse and Maxim Lott  FOXNews.com  Thursday, April 02, 2009

EXCLUSIVE: You've heard this shocking "fact" before -- on TV and radio, in newspapers, on the Internet and from the highest politicians in the land: 90 percent of the weapons used to commit crimes in Mexico come from the United States.

-- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said it to reporters on a flight to Mexico City.

-- CBS newsman Bob Schieffer referred to it while interviewing President Obama.

-- California Sen. Dianne Feinstein said at a Senate hearing: "It is unacceptable to have 90 percent of the guns that are picked up in Mexico and used to shoot judges, police officers and mayors ... come from the United States."

-- William Hoover, assistant director for field operations at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, testified in the House of Representatives that "there is more than enough evidence to indicate that over 90 percent of the firearms that have either been recovered in, or interdicted in transport to Mexico, originated from various sources within the United States."

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. The fact is, only 17 percent of guns found at Mexican crime scenes have been traced to the U.S.

What's true, an ATF spokeswoman told FOXNews.com, in a clarification of the statistic used by her own agency's assistant director, "is that over 90 percent of the traced firearms originate from the U.S."

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.

A Look at the Numbers

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.

So, if not from the U.S., where do they come from? There are a variety of sources:

-- The Black Market. Mexico is a virtual arms bazaar, with fragmentation grenades from South Korea, AK-47s from China, and shoulder-fired rocket launchers from Spain, Israel and former Soviet bloc manufacturers.

-- Russian crime organizations. Interpol says Russian Mafia groups such as Poldolskaya and Moscow-based Solntsevskaya are actively trafficking drugs and arms in Mexico.

- South America. During the late 1990s, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) established a clandestine arms smuggling and drug trafficking partnership with the Tijuana cartel, according to the Federal Research Division report from the Library of Congress.

-- Asia. According to a 2006 Amnesty International Report, China has provided arms to countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Chinese assault weapons and Korean explosives have been recovered in Mexico.

-- The Mexican Army. More than 150,000 soldiers deserted in the last six years, according to Mexican Congressman Robert Badillo. Many took their weapons with them, including the standard issue M-16 assault rifle made in Belgium.

-- Guatemala. U.S. intelligence agencies say traffickers move immigrants, stolen cars, guns and drugs, including most of America's cocaine, along the porous Mexican-Guatemalan border. On March 27, La Hora, a Guatemalan newspaper, reported that police seized 500 grenades and a load of AK-47s on the border. Police say the cache was transported by a Mexican drug cartel operating out of Ixcan, a border town.

'These Don't Come From El Paso'

Ed Head, a firearms instructor in Arizona who spent 24 years with the U.S. Border Patrol, recently displayed an array of weapons considered "assault rifles" that are similar to those recovered in Mexico, but are unavailable for sale in the U.S.

"These kinds of guns -- the auto versions of these guns -- they are not coming from El Paso," he said. "They are coming from other sources. They are brought in from Guatemala. They are brought in from places like China. They are being diverted from the military. But you don't get these guns from the U.S."

Some guns, he said, "are legitimately shipped to the government of Mexico, by Colt, for example, in the United States. They are approved by the U.S. government for use by the Mexican military service. The guns end up in Mexico that way -- the fully auto versions -- they are not smuggled in across the river."

Many of the fully automatic weapons that have been seized in Mexico cannot be found in the U.S., but they are not uncommon in the Third World.

The Mexican government said it has seized 2,239 grenades in the last two years -- but those grenades and the rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) are unavailable in U.S. gun shops. The ones used in an attack on the U.S. Consulate in Monterrey in October and a TV station in January were made in South Korea. Almost 70 similar grenades were seized in February in the bottom of a truck entering Mexico from Guatemala.

"Most of these weapons are being smuggled from Central American countries or by sea, eluding U.S. and Mexican monitors who are focused on the smuggling of semi-automatic and conventional weapons purchased from dealers in the U.S. border states of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California," according to a report in the Los Angeles Times.

Boatloads of Weapons

So why would the Mexican drug cartels, which last year grossed between $17 billion and $38 billion, bother buying single-shot rifles, and force thousands of unknown "straw" buyers in the U.S. through a government background check, when they can buy boatloads of fully automatic M-16s and assault rifles from China, Israel or South Africa?

Alberto Islas, a security consultant who advises the Mexican government, says the drug cartels are using the Guatemalan border to move black market weapons. Some are left over from the Central American wars the United States helped fight; others, like the grenades and launchers, are South Korean, Israeli and Spanish. Some were legally supplied to the Mexican government; others were sold by corrupt military officers or officials.

The exaggeration of United States "responsibility" for the lawlessness in Mexico extends even beyond the "90-percent" falsehood -- and some Second Amendment activists believe it's designed to promote more restrictive gun-control laws in the U.S.

In a remarkable claim, Auturo Sarukhan, the Mexican ambassador to the U.S., said Mexico seizes 2,000 guns a day from the United States -- 730,000 a year. That's a far cry from the official statistic from the Mexican attorney general's office, which says Mexico seized 29,000 weapons in all of 2007 and 2008.

Chris Cox, spokesman for the National Rifle Association, blames the media and anti-gun politicians in the U.S. for misrepresenting where Mexican weapons come from.

"Reporter after politician after news anchor just disregards the truth on this," Cox said. "The numbers are intentionally used to weaken the Second Amendment."

"The predominant source of guns in Mexico is Central and South America. You also have Russian, Chinese and Israeli guns. It's estimated that over 100,000 soldiers deserted the army to work for the drug cartels, and that ignores all the police. How many of them took their weapons with them?"

But Tom Diaz, senior policy analyst at the Violence Policy Center, called the "90 percent" issue a red herring and said that it should not detract from the effort to stop gun trafficking into Mexico.

"Let's do what we can with what we know," he said. "We know that one hell of a lot of firearms come from the United States because our gun market is wide open."

Clinton targets assault weapons

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is pledging further effort to help Mexico in its anti-drugs campaign.

Mrs Clinton said the use of military-style assault weapons was a particular concern, and she would discuss reimposing a ban on their sale.

A previous US decision to lift a ban on such sales had been a mistake, she told the NBC television network.

Earlier on her visit she admitted that America's appetite for drugs was helping to fuel the violence.

Some 8,000 people have died in drug-related violence in Mexico over the past two years.

'Insatiable'

Mrs Clinton said assault weapons did not belong on anyone's street.

She was referring to a ban on the sale of such powerful guns which was in effect in the United Sates between 1994 and 2004.

"During that time," said Mrs Clinton, "police in America were able to drive down crime because they didn't have to worry about these assault weapons getting into the hands of criminals and gang members.

"So we will make the case that we need to put more teeth in the law, try to prohibit the sale outside of our borders of these guns," she said, stressing that Congress might oppose such a ban.

On the first day of her visit, Mrs Clinton had said an "insatiable" US demand for illegal drugs was fuelling the drug trade.

"Our inability to prevent weapons from being illegally smuggled across the border to arm these criminals causes the deaths of police officers, soldiers and civilians.

"I feel very strongly we have a co-responsibility."

She also acknowledged that US efforts to ban drugs had so far been unsuccessful in stopping the narcotics trade.

"Clearly, what we have been doing has not worked and it is unfair for our incapacity... to be creating a situation where people are holding the Mexican government and people responsible," she said.

Mrs Clinton said the Obama administration, working with the US Congress, intended to pledge $80m (Ł55m) to help Mexico buy Blackhawk helicopters.

"These aircraft will help Mexican police respond aggressively and successfully to the threats coming from the cartels," she said.

Illegal guns

Mrs Clinton's trip is the first in a series of visits by high-level officials, including Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Attorney General Eric Holder, before President Barack Obama himself visits Mexico in mid-April.

Ms Napolitano told the BBC on Wednesday that there had been a significant escalation of violence in Mexico, in part because of US efforts to clamp down on trafficking routes.

But, she said: "The most important thing is that the federal government of Mexico is now battling these cartels, and they weren't in the past. And as a result the violence between the cartels and the government of Mexico has really increased."

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/7966427.stm

The Ongoing Mexico Crisis -- Blaming American Gun Owners

Friday, March 20, 2009

Congress has jumped in with both feet when it comes to the crisis of violence in Mexico, and the usual suspects are once again blaming American gun owners and American gun laws.  This week there were two more hearings, one in the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Drugs and Crime, and the other in the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Western Hemisphere.  In both cases, anti-gun politicians such as Senators Dick Durbin and Dianne Feinstein, and Congressman Eliot Engel, blamed American gun laws for the crisis.  Fortunately, in both hearings, gun rights supporters in Congress stood up for American gun owners. 

In the House subcommittee hearing, Chairman Engel made it clear from the onset he viewed this issue from one perspective: guns. His solution to the ultra violent Mexican drug cartels is to blame American gun owners and American gun laws. 

Kristen Rand, the Legislative Director of the Violence Policy Center, repeated the unsubstantiated claim that 90% of guns seized from the cartels come from the U.S., blamed America's gun laws and called for BATFE to use the broadest possible interpretation of the "sporting purposes" test to ban a much larger class of semi-auto rifles. 

Congressman Connie Mack (R-Fla.), however, challenged Rand's claim that 90% of guns seized from the cartels are from the United States.  Rand cited the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) for her claim. But the BATFE has only stated that 90% of the guns traced are from America.  BATFE only traces a fraction of the guns seized; those firearms are not selected randomly, but are likely selected because they are the guns most likely to have come from the U.S.  Trace data reveals nothing about the large number of guns that are not traced. 

In defending her call to ban the import of all "assault rifles" into America, Rand admitted she had no idea how many of those guns were subsequently smuggled into Mexico.  But a recent article in the Los Angles Times may shed some light on the real source of the cartels' weapons.  The article describes the military arms being used by cartels in their battles with the Mexican army and federal police, and how those weapons are entering Mexico not through the U.S., but through Central America

In the Senate Judiciary subcommittee, Chairman Durbin also made it clear he thought American guns, and not drug lords, drug users or illegal gun traffickers are the cause of violence in Mexico. Durbin had a terse exchange with Senator Jeff Sessions when Senator Sessions stated that American guns were not the problem.  Durbin snapped back at the Senator from Alabama, stating his firm belief that guns were indeed the problem. 

In addition to Durbin, Senator Dianne Feinstein used this forum to express her long opposition to American gun owners' rights.  In her remarks she made it clear she intends to use this crisis as an excuse to promote new gun laws here at home. During her remarks, she repeated the claim that 90% of seized guns come from America, and also stated that there are over 2,000 guns smuggled into Mexico from the U.S. each day. 

Feinstein even tried to elicit support for that number from a representative from the BATFE. But when he responded that the number was much lower, most likely in the hundreds, Senator Feinstein was clearly unhappy that he would not endorse her anti-gun soundbite. 

Not everything that came out of the hearings was negative.  In the Senate hearing, Senator Sessions made it clear that American gun rights should not be sacrificed.  His statement of support sent the message to anti-gun senators that they would find strong opposition to their efforts to use the Mexico crisis as an excuse to undermine those rights. 

Additionally, three representatives of U.S. law enforcement, one each from BATFE, Drug Enforcement Agency, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, made it clear that the increase in violence in Mexico is being misinterpreted by the media and politicians. They testified that the increase in violence is a direct result of the actions taken by Mexican President Felipe Calderon to take on the cartels.  The cartels, they testified, are being pressured more than ever before and are fighting back in desperation, resulting in casualties. But in the end, they believed, the battle to shut down the cartels would be won. 

For American gun owners, the battle will be to make sure that our Second Amendment rights are not sacrificed by scheming anti-gun politicians who see an opportunity to advance their gun ban agenda. 

NRA-ILA will continue to closely monitor all activities relating to the crisis in Mexico and will keep our members informed.  If you wish to view the hearings, please use the following links. 

House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere: "Guns, Drugs and Violence: The Merida Initiative and the Challenge in Mexico" 

Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs: "Law Enforcement Responses to Mexican Drug Cartels"

http://www.nraila.org/Legislation/Federal/Read.aspx?id=4632