By Larry Keane, Senior Vice President & General Counsel, National Shooting Sports Foundation
During his recent visit to the White House, Mexico President Felipe Calderon renewed his call for a U.S. assault weapons ban as a solution to the drug cartel-caused violence that plagues his country. He also claimed, according to columnist Bill Press, that violence levels are directly related to the number of guns in circulation. Both of these assertions are demonstrably false.
Calderon’s pleading for an assault weapons ban (AWB) ignores what multiple studies have shown: that the AWB, which existed from 1994 to 2004, was not an effective crime-fighting tool, largely because they were never used in crime in the first place. Also, since the ban expired, Americans have purchased millions of modern sporting rifles — rifles based on the AR platform whose ownership was restricted by the AWB — yet at the same time violent crime has continued to decline in the United States to its lowest level in decades, demonstrating there is no correlation between the number of guns in circulation and the level of violence.
Let’s take a look at a few other points raised in Press’s column:
- “We did a count, said Calderon, and discovered 8,000 American gun shops along the border with Mexico.” This is only relevant if you incorrectly believe federally licensed firearms retailers are somehow responsible for guns going to Mexico. They are not, of course. This is really like saying there are “too many” Ford dealers in a state where there are X number of DWI arrests in which the vehicle driven was a Ford. This also ignores the fact that firearms are only transferred by a firearms retailer after a background check has been performed on the buyer.
- “Calderon claimed that in Washington, D.C., the rate of homicides per hundred thousand inhabitants is ‘higher by 10 — more than 10 or 20 than the largest number in any of the big cities in Mexico.’” Even if you assume this statistic is true (I haven’t checked), it is despite the fact that Washington, D.C., has the most stringent gun-control laws in the United States. It’s time to admit it that gun control is a failed social experiment.
- “It’s almost as if, like global warming, the issue of gun control has disappeared from public view.” Perhaps that is because support for gun-control laws is at a record low in the U.S., according to Gallup’s annual Crime Poll. The same poll shows that most Americans do not support banning so-called “assault weapons” (even using this demonizing misnomer for modern sporting rifles), the very ban President Calderon and Bill Press seek to reinstate.
The real truth about Mexico and guns has been discussed many times on this blog, but in light of new press coverage of Calderon’s remarks, it bears repeating.
The independent research group STRATFOR — a publication Bill Press cites in his column — has corroborated what NSSF has been saying for some time about firearms recovered from drug cartels in Mexico: that it is erroneous and grossly misleading to say that the majority of firearms recovered in Mexico came from the United States.
Only 12 percent of the firearms misused in Mexico were originally sold at retail in the United States. The proof can be found in the U.S. government statistics in a report released by the independent research group STRATFOR and that the pie chart clearly illustrates:
Also, according to ATF, firearms recovered in Mexico and successfully traced as coming from the U.S. were originally lawfully sold in the United States an average of 15 years before they were seized and traced in Mexico. So that means they were sold long before the “assault weapon ban” sunset in 2004. Good luck trying to find these facts reported anywhere in the mainstream media.
An editorial published in the Miami Herald taking up Calderon’s argument says that bazookas and automatic weapons are purchased in large quantities at U.S. firearms retailers and then trafficked to Mexico. This is ridiculous and patently false. It has been widely documented by such publications as the L.A. Times, Washington Post and CBS News, that the drug cartels are acquiring firearms and serious weapons like grenades from Central America and black market sources. Also, over 150,000 Mexican soldiers have defected to go work for the cartels, clearly taking their U.S. made firearms with them.
Our industry abhors the criminal misuse of firearms, whether on the streets of Miami or Juarez, Mexico. That is why the public should know America’s firearms industry cooperates with law enforcement to prevent the illegal purchase of firearms, most recently working with ATF along the border on a program called Don’t Lie for the Other Guy that warns the public about the serious penalties for straw purchasing.
We can all agree that there are serious crime problems in Mexico, and notwithstanding his factual misstatements, we do applaud Mexican President Calderon’s courage for cracking down on the drug cartels and rampant corruption in his country, that has even reach inside his inner circle. However, laying the blame for Mexico’s crime at the feet of the U.S. firearms industry is more an act of frustration than a crime-fighting strategy, and, as we’ve said before, sacrificing the constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans as a means of addressing this issue is neither an option nor a solution