The Government Accountability Office has released a new study that shows most firearms recovered in drug violence in Mexico come from the United States, mostly from the Southwest border states of Texas, California and Arizona.
The study, reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, also shows the number of drug-related murders more than doubled last year, from 2,700 in 2007 to more than 6,200 in 2008.
"The availability of firearms illegally flowing from the United States into Mexico has armed and emboldened a dangerous criminal element in Mexico, and it has made the job of drug cartels easier," Rep. Eliot L. Engel, D- N.Y., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, said.
"It is simply unacceptable that the United States not only consumes the majority of the drugs flowing from Mexico, but also arms the very cartels that contribute to the daily violence that is devastating Mexico."
Engel and the subcommittee will hold a hearing on arms trafficking today on Capitol Hill and will cite the GAO findings in the hope to enact tougher U.S. gun laws and help restrict arms smuggling, The Journal reports.
Critics of the report, including the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade association for the firearms industry, and other gun groups, say the GAO report is misleading on Mexico violence and U.S. guns. They challenge the findings citing incomplete data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Of the almost 30,000 weapons seized by Mexican law enforcement in 2008, only 7,200 were submitted to the bureau for tracing, the report shows. The study cites bureaucratic problems in Mexico that reduce the number of weapons submitted to the U.S. for electronic tracing, which skews the results.
In addition, CNSNews.com reported in April 2 that, “according to an ATF spokesperson, the bureau does not actually count, acquire, inspect and warehouse the weapons confiscated in Mexico, but relies on the Mexican government to submit information on the guns such as the serial number, make, and model for e-tracing.”
The lack of a coherent anti-arms-trafficking strategy, as well as turf battles among agencies charged with enforcing laws and government policy on the issue, are among the problems GAO investigators had compiling data for the report, NSSF reports.
“Although it’s understandable that Mexican authorities and sympathetic American agencies are frustrated with cartel-related violence, it is wrong for anyone to blame the Second Amendment and America’s firearms industry for those problems,” a spokesman for NSSF wrote in a blog on OpposingViews.com.
“Some 29,000 firearms were recovered in Mexico last year, 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.”
Gun rights expert John Snyder told NewsWithViews.com: "[This report may be] used in a phony attempt to show that the ban is needed. It even may be used as part of an outrageous attempt to argue that Americans have to give up some of their Second Amendment rights to an international authority so that international trafficking in firearms can be properly and efficiently regulated,” he said, fearing the Obama Administration will use the report to justify a ban on guns.
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