Saturday, April 4, 2009

90% Myth

90% of Guns in Mexico from US
When I first heard this statistic a month or so ago, I new it was bogus from the beginning. The proof was in the article. Every article invariable talked about how the Mexican police and military were finding themselves outgunned.
Fact #1, if you are buying your weapons on the civilian US market, there is no possible way you are going to "outgun" a military force of anything but the most unarmed country (the island of Nauru comes to mind). Drug cartels are using fully automatic weapons, grenades, and shoulder fired rockets to fight against the Mexican government. While having some of this firepower might be fun to shoot on a weekend, you cannot get it in any gun show or gun store in the US. While you may be able to acquire one of the few fully automatic weapons on the market, you better have $15K to $50K and be prepared for a full body cavity search by the ATF.

Of the several stories I read, the 90% myth was stated in different ways. "90% of guns used to kill police", "90% of all guns in Mexico", "90% of guns used by drug runners", "90 of guns recovered from crime scenes", etc, etc. All of these are wrong, if not flat out lies. Fact #2, 5114 of the 29000 guns that the Mexican government recovered in a two year period were traced to the US. What does that mean? It means at some point they passed through the US. What I would really be interested in is the breakdown by make of gun. So where do they get the 90% value from?
Well, 5114 is 90% of guns that were able to be traced. Huh? You see, the US makes more firearms than any other country. They also have the best tracking (i.e. serial numbering) system for guns in the world. So if a firearm is made by a licensed manufacturer, or imported by a manufacturer, regardless of where the firearm finally ended up, there would be paperwork tracing it to the US. Because of this probably 90% of all traceable firearms could be traced to the US. The other 10% could probably be traced to Switzerland, Israel, Germany, France and other countries that use a serial number tracking system. It may come as a shock, but a bad guys know that guns have serial numbers which can be traced. So they file them off, or if making guns themselves, don't put them on in the first place.

Well could 90% of firearms be coming from the US? It's possible, although unlikely. The US Defense Department and State Department sells thousands of firearms (including the fully automatic kind) to countries all over the world. We don't track what happens to them after they are sold. So it is entirely likely that some third world country we supplied arms to in the past is now selling those arms to the cartels because they need cash.
But that isn't the likely scenario. Here is the likely scenario. The most popular rifle in the world (heck the most popular firearm) is the AK-47. Why? It is rugged, reliable, and relatively inexpensive to produce. There are approximately 60 million AK-47 (full auto) of the 600 million privately owned firearms in the world (which would include the cartels). AK-47s can be made by just about anyone. I know, that may seem odd, but there is nothing high tech about fully automatic firearms. The technology is more than 100 years old. Some springs, some levels, a tube, put it together and you have a firearm. Don't believe me? AK-47s have been found that were cobbled together in crude workshops in the mountains of Afganistan. There are no complex toolings needed to make an AK-47. Its not rocket science. So that leaves the cartels with a few options: A) They can be buying and smuggling these weapons from a country (i.e. China, Iran, North Korea, etc.), B) They could be buying and smuggling these weapons from an organization (i.e. al Qaida), C) They could be making the weapons themselves.

Oh yeah, and then there is the other likely place they are getting these weapons. The Mexican government (who got them from the US). When soldiers/policemen desert they could take their weapons with them. Corrupt officials could sell the weapons onto the black market. Weapons caches could be raided. Or you can actually believe that the cartels have hundreds or thousands of straw purchasers in the US who are spending anywhere from $300 - $1500 per gun and then smuggling them into Mexico (I mean it makes perfect sense that someone would pay $1500 for a semi-automatic AR-15 which jams whenever you get a grain of sand in it, when the other option is a $200 fully automatic AK-47 from Nigeria that never jams, even when buried in the mud. I also have some prime resort real estate in the northern parts of Saskatchewan to sell you for only $5000 per acre.)

Are some guns from the civilian market in the US making their way to Mexico? Yeah, but I would wager that they are primarily handguns - used either as a sidearm backup or as a status symbol for the cartel members (several expensive firearms have very little military use, but like a Mercedes or Rolex can be a status symbol). Firearms from the US civilian market are not being used in the vast majority of firefights that you hear about in the news.

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