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House Democrats repeat flawed numbers on guns seized in Mexico

Old deceptions are being repackaged for renewed attempts at citizen disarmament.
Old deceptions are being repackaged for renewed attempts at citizen disarmament.
HFAC Democrats Press Office

Resurrecting an often-repeated misleading statistic on U.S. guns recovered in Mexico, a press release sent out Tuesday by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Democrats Press Office on behalf of New York Rep. Eliot Engel renews chances that false information will once again be propagated to demand more “gun control” edicts, both by those who don’t know any better, and cynically, by those who do.

“Engel calls for new assessment of efforts to curb gun trafficking to Mexico,” the release headline declares.

“87 percent of firearms seized by Mexican authorities originated in the U.S.,” reads the subhead, and therein is the problem. One must read deeper into the fine print of the release, or go to the press release website (which, curiously, lacks the subhead) to find that it refers to a 2009 Government Accountability Office report that “showed that 87 percent of the firearms Mexican authorities seized and traced between FY 2004 and FY 2008 originated in the United States.”

“Seized and traced” are the key qualifiers. Not all guns seized by Mexican authorities are traced, and using inflated numbers is an old scam the anti-gunners, with whom Engel brazenly identifies, used extensively in the days before whistleblowers blew the lid off Operation Fast and Furious “gunwalking,” when only a few voices were warning that Mexican cartel crime was being exploited to manipulate the public into accepting more federal edicts as the “solution.”

“American gun sellers supply the cartels with 95 to 100 percent of their guns, according to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives,” former Brady Campaign President Paul Helmke and Board Member Kathleen Kennedy Townsend asserted in a “Special to CNN” World Commentary demanding numerous new federal restrictions.

As more started looking at and questioning the numbers, the antis began revising them downward. The Brady Center was claiming “more than 90 percent of the guns used by the drug cartels originate from U.S. gun sellers,” and the UK government-owned BBC “News” was amplifying that, telling its audience and readers “It is estimated that at least 90% of the guns used by the Mexican drug trafficking organizations have come from the U.S.”

Few, if any, outside of this column were telling readers that this came from the Statement of David Ogden, Deputy Attorney General, United States Department of Justice, before the United States Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs hearing entitled “Southern Border Violence: Homeland Security Threats, Vulnerabilities, and Responsibilities”, presented March 25, 2009. Just a small bit, really, but a critical one, almost lost in the 20 pages of his statement:

“According to ATF’s Tracing Center, 90 percent of the firearms about which ATF receives information are traceable to the United States,” Ogden said, in a comment almost lost at the bottom of page six from the printed statement.

Read it again, and compare it to what the antis were saying. It's very different, isn't it?

The noise some were making must have had some effect, because by 2010, Dennis Henigan of the Brady Campaign had reduced the number being claimed to 80 percent, and even adding in the bit about “of those traced” before making his case that former Mexican “President Calderon understands that it does no damage to the Second Amendment to protect police officers from assault weapons,” that is, to ban them.

Numbers continued to drop. "Progressive" Media Matters fixed on 70 percent. Dianne Feinstein, sounding a bit like Mr. Spock from Star Trek, gave a more precise figure of 68.5 percent, albeit she made the "submitted for tracing" part follow in the details.

The thing is, those definitive assertions came years after “FOX News debunked that claim [and] found only 17 percent of guns found at Mexican crime scenes have been traced to the U.S., though even that figure is an imprecise estimate.”

The other thing is, after using the 90 to 95 percent figure in a statement to a House subcommittee meeting where he recommended "Repeal the current restrictions on release of ATF crime gun trace data ... Implement an effective federal assault weapons ban ... Implement restrictions on 50-caliber sniper rifles ... [and] Extend the Brady background check system to the ‘secondary market,’” and after having that exposed as untrue, Violence Policy Center Senior Policy Analyst Tom Diaz “called the '90 percent' issue a red herring and said that it should not detract from the effort to stop gun trafficking into Mexico.”

Is it any wonder Engel, who has been exploiting constituent disarmament for years, believes it is something he can get renewed traction for?