Truth, lies, and gun statistics

I posted most of this as a comment on the blog of Michael Yon, a former special forces operator turned war journalist, in a response to his post: I really respect Michael, and read all of his disptaches and own all of his books, including a signed copy of Moment of Truth in Iraq.

Michael’s post is really just a link to a government document full of statistics about “tons” of guns going to Mexico. All of the block quotes here are quotes from the government document.

Mexico is having huge problems, yes, but now people are trying to make it sound like this problem is our fault. And because it is our fault, we should limit our own rights. But that won’t solve the problem. If there really is one. Let the statistics begin!

It is an undisputable (sic) fact that the weapons and firearms used to fuel the drug-related violence in Mexico can be traced back to guns procured legally or illegally here.

Wow, how vague. “weapons and firearms”. plural. That could be one knife and one gun, or one baseball bat and one gun, or could be many more. For an indisputable fact, that isn’t very specific.

In fact, according to ATF’s National Tracing Center, 90 percent of the weapons that could be traced were determined to have originated from various sources within the U.S.

Again, wow. “90% of the weapons that could be traced…” 90% of how many? How many couldn’t be traced? I read this as 9 of the 10 weapons that had serial numbers. the other 300k didn’t have serial numbers because they weren’t manufactured in the united states.

In FY 2007 alone, Mexico submitted approximately 1,112 guns for tracing that originated in Texas, Arizona and California. The remaining 47 States accounted for 435 traces in FY 2007.

Finally! some numbers: 1547 guns in a year. That is “tons” now? they still don’t say how many were traced, just 90% of the TRACEABLE ones were traced. Even if 100% were traceable, that means that 1392 were from the USA. ATF stats for 2007 say that 2.7 MILLION guns were produced that year. Not only that, but 207,000+ guns were legally exported. So if 90% of the guns that were traced to the US turns out to be 1392 guns, that is less than 1 percent (0.67%) of all exported guns, and less than 5 hundredths of a percent (0.05%) of all of the guns sold in the us in 2007. The only way this is tons of guns is if you measure it by the pound.

And again, this is only the guns that were submitted to the ATF for tracing, and those that could be traced. Best case, that’s all 1392, worst case that is NINE.

There are related statistics to these 1392 guns that were traceable that i would like to see:
1) how many of them had been reported stolen?
2) how many of them were reported lost or stolen by the US Government? State and Local governments?

Those are harder numbers to find. So lets look at state by state trace information published by the ATF.

If you look at only the Texas ATF trace statistics for 2007, they traced 14,111 firearms to that state alone. Of those recovered, there were seventeen “machine-guns”. 17 of fourteen thousand!

What is the distribution of the guns given to the ATF for trace? How many hanguns? revolvers? shotguns? rifles? how many were “scary black rifles”? If you go with the texas numbers from above, it would be about half autoloading handguns, then about a fifth revolvers, a fifth shotguns, a fifth rifles, the rest random stuff.
How many exactly were fully automatic? That’s what everyone is talking about, drug runners with scary machine guns!
If you go with the texas numbers above and do the math, it would be less than 2. Yes, two. Two machine guns. All this press and rhetoric about two machine guns.

California has much more restrictive gun laws, so That state must have much fewer guns than Texas, right? Heeeeeeell no. Lets do the same things with the 2007 Cali statistics:
Traced weapons in california in 2007? 27,672. So around double that of Texas and twenty times as many as were done for Mexico. The pistol/revolver/rifle/shotgun distribution is about the same as Texas. How many machine guns? 62 in California. About two tenths of a percent of those recovered. So that would round up to be 3 machine guns in the mexico batch.

In addition, drug traffickers frequently resort to using “straw purchasers” to gain firearms from federally licensed gun dealers in the U.S., dealers who often are unwitting participants in these schemes.

Yes, and straw purchases are already illegal. Its the first checkbox on the ATF 4473 form you fill out when you transfer a firearm. paraphrasing: “Are you buying this for yourself? If no, stop right here.” If someone’s going to lie on the first question of the form, why wouldn’t they lie on every other question on the form?

ATF also has seized large quantities of ammunition for use in these firearms.

Define “large quantities”, that is a very subjective term. Almost everyone who owns a .22LR gun has large quantities of ammunition as they sell ammo in 550 round bricks. People buy .223 and 7.62×39 by the 1000+round case, because its the cheapest way to get it. People build ammo forts and take pictures. Go to any standard retailer (like Cabelas) website and go look at prices for ammunition. Nobody is going to buy ammo 20 rounds at a time for $1 / round when they can buy 1000 for 33 cents/round.

Unfortunately, in the past six months we have noted a troubling increase in the number of grenades, which are illegal to possess and sell, seized from or used by drug traffickers, and we are concerned about the possibility of explosives-related violence spilling into U.S. border towns.

This is the best part of this document. Something that is already illegal to own is being sold to drug traffickers. OMG PONIES! People breaking the law are selling illegal things to other people breaking the law! Lets change the law for selling other things that have nothing to do with this to solve that other problem!

Update 4/2/09:Seems that i’m not the only one who’s complained about this number. FoxNews (yeah, i know, i know) did some real research and got real numbers from someone. the 90% number is exactly what i said it was. A percentage of a small percentage of some smaller number of guns. The real number is around 17%, which is much more reasonable to me based on the size of the border and the number of guns produced here. Its still unclear from that number, though, how many of those were M16’s that might have been produced here under military contract for the mexican government:

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.

The article says they are Belgian produced, but some portion might be from the US.

Posted in Uncategorized Tagged with:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


XBox GamerCard

Recent Flickr