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The"Blame America" Beat Goes On

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Last month I reported that the anti-gunners are gearing up to use the crisis in Mexico to advance their agenda ("Mexico's Drug Wars: Will Gun Owners Be the Scapegoats?").

Now, Congress and the Obama administration have jumped into the issue with both feet. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton traveled to Mexico in March and President Obama will have completed his own trip by the time this is published. There have been eight different congressional hearings since the beginning of March and more are scheduled. It's clear that our opponents are intent on using Mexican drug violence to advance new gun laws.

During her trip to Mexico, Clinton joined the chorus blaming American gun laws for the crisis. She called for a new "assault weapons" ban and even claimed the now-expired federal ban was a ringing success while it was in effect. "There's no doubt in my mind," she said, "that the 10 years we had an assault weapons ban in America was one of the tools that helped to drive down the crime rate."

Perhaps if Clinton had read the congressionally mandated study of the ban by the Urban Institute, she would know that the ban couldn't possibly have had much impact on crime because "the banned guns were never used in more than a modest fraction of all gun murders" before the ban.

Not to be outdone, the Brady Center released a report entitled, "Exporting Gun Violence: How Our Weak Laws Arm Criminals in Mexico and America." Conveniently for the Brady Center, the "solutions" they envision are exactly the same ideas they were pushing before Mexican violence grabbed media attention this year, including an end to private transfers of firearms, bans on millions of commonly owned semi-automatics, rationing handgun sales and unleashing the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) to increase harassment of firearm dealers.

Oddly, the Brady Center's call for more American gun laws was illustrated with a picture of seized arms that showed "98 fragmentation grenades" and a "Light Anti-Tank rocket"--yet none of their not-so-new "solutions" included additional restrictions on these items. The report also failed to include even a single suggestion that would actually increase border security or target criminals. That omission makes clear that the Brady Center is more interested in advancing its longtime anti-gun agenda than in stopping violence in Mexico.

The ongoing parade of congressional hearings has given anti-gun senators such as Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., a forum to renew their attacks on gun owners' rights. In one hearing, Sen. Feinstein asserted that over 2,000 guns are smuggled into Mexico from the U.S. each day. But when she tried to elicit support for that claim from a BATFE official, Feinstein was visibly irritated when he responded that the number was significantly lower.

Sen. Feinstein also repeated the claim that 90 percent of guns seized in the Mexican drug war are from America. This claim has become a staple of media coverage, but it's deeply misleading.

In fact, it is unknown where most of the arms possessed by the cartels originate. According to the BATFE, the 90 percent figure only applies to the firearms successfully traced by BATFE. But an April 2 Fox News report revealed that 68 percent of seized guns were never submitted for tracing and only about 55 percent of trace attempts were successful.

That means 83 percent of guns seized at Mexican crime scenes were not traced to the United States, and the true origin of those guns remains unknown. Guns that weren't traced to the U.S. are far more likely to have come from the international black market, or even from some of the estimated 14,000 Mexican soldiers who desert each year.

Fortunately, gun owners have begun to see friends stand up against the scapegoating. During a Senate hearing, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., made it clear that American gun owners' rights should not be sacrificed.

On the House side, Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fla., challenged the Violence Policy Center's Kristen Rand on her repetition of the "90 percent" factoid. And the entire Wyoming congressional delegation (Sens. John Barrasso and Mike Enzi and Rep. Cynthia Lummis), released a joint statement opposing a new ban in response to Mexico's crime wave.

Also doubting the gun ban agenda was the leader of the Border Patrol Union, T.J. Bonner. Bonner said he was "underwhelmed" by the Obama administration's plans to secure the border and he rejected the idea that Mexican violence is caused by American guns. "The U.S. has more weapons but we don't have that kind of violence in our streets," Bonner said. But that's a point anti-gun groups and their allies in Congress have been missing for years.

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