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May 20, 2010

NSSF Responds to National Journal Blog Post on Firearms Trafficking on the Border


A National Journal blog  posted incorrect information pertaining to firearms trafficking on the border. Let’s set the record straight: 

Last year’s General Accounting Office (GAO) study regarding firearms trafficking and violence in Mexico was rife with error. 

Consider the following claim: “According to U.S. and Mexican government officials, these firearms have been increasingly more powerful and lethal in recent years. For example, many of these firearms are high-caliber and high-powered, such as AK and AR-15 type semiautomatic rifles.”

These rifles, of course, are no more “powerful” or “lethal” than any other lawful rifle, and they fire ammunition that is considerably less powerful than other hunting rifles.

The report also drew false allegations regarding recovered firearms in Mexico. As these allegations are now being resurrected, let’s clear this up:  

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.

Further, it should be noted that even the Department of Homeland Security (following a review of the GAO report) found the statistics cited to be misleading. The department specifically called into question the GAO claim that "87 percent of firearms seized by Mexican authorities and traced over the past 5 years originated in the United States." The DHS responded to this claim by saying, "DHS officials believe that the 87 percent statistic is misleading as the reference should include the number of weapons that could not be traced. Numerous problems with the data collection and sample population render this assertion as unreliable (page 69)."

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 us to further expand this worthwhile program. For the last year, Don’t Lie has been financed entirely by members of the firearms industry.  

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.