October 18, 2011
Attorney General Holder and the 90 Percent Myth
In responding to congressional leaders about concerns over his May, 2011 testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, Attorney General Holder talked about the need to “reform gun laws” and “close loopholes” in an effort to curtail the “staggering flow of guns” heading across the border each year into Mexico. The National Shooting Sports Foundation believes it is important to address this misconception.
The myth that 90 percent of the firearms misused by the drug cartels in Mexico come from federally licensed firearms retailers in the United States has been thoroughly debunked. This myth was born out of congressional testimony by ATF wherein the bureau misstated, and quickly attempted to clarify, that 90 percent of the firearms recovered in Mexico in 2008 came from the United States.
The truth is that less than 12 percent of the guns Mexico seized in 2008, for example, have been verified as coming from the U.S. In 2008, approximately 30,000 firearms were seized from criminals in Mexico. Of these 30,000, only 7,200 (24 percent) were submitted to the ATF for tracing. This is because only these firearms were likely to have come from the U.S., a determination made by the presence of a U.S. mandated serial number and the firearm’s make and model – requirements under federal law as part of the Gun Control Act of 1968. Of the 7,200 firearms submitted for tracing, only about 4,000 (13 percent) could be traced by the ATF of which roughly 3,480 (12 percent) came from the U.S. Although 3,480 is approximately 90 percent of the firearms successfully traced, it is hardly the mythical 90 percent of the total firearms recovered.
Moreover, the ATF has just released data that shows the average age of recovered firearms in Mexico is over 15 years old, demonstrating that these firearms were not recently purchased in the United States, and that 20 percent of Mexican firearm traces are duplicates.
As NSSF has repeatedly stated, we applaud President Calderon’s willingness take on his country’s powerful drug cartels, and agree that crime needs to be addressed in Mexico; however, diminishing the civil rights of law-abiding Americans is neither an option nor a solution. We hope that both President Calderon and United States Attorney General Holder understand this.