Today is the two-year anniversary of the Virginia Tech shooting; you’re likely to hear more focus on gun control than usual.
Because of the high number of pro-gun Democrats in the House of Representatives, you don’t hear much clamor for the resinstatement of the assault-weapons ban from high-ranking congressional Democrats. (Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did say she wished it were still in effect while visiting Mexico recently.) However, you do hear various gun-control proposals touted as a necessary step to control Mexican drug-cartel violence on both sides of our southern border — often from the exact same folks who say that building a wall or fence and stepping up border security is xenophobic, hardline, paranoid, hateful, etc.
Perhaps inadvertently, the Washington Post did a nice job of illustrating some of the slippery numbers thrown around when the topic turns to guns used by Mexican drug cartels. In a front-page article today, Post reporter Spencer S. Hsu writes, “The financial sanctions provide an additional tool against the organizations, whose drug and gun trafficking has proved exceedingly difficult to curtail. Mexico, for example, has seized more than 35,000 firearms from narco-traffickers since December 2006, and both governments say 90 percent of the weapons originated in the United States.”
But a chart that illustrates the story notes that of the 35,000 weapons seized by the Mexican government in the past three years, only about 13,000 have been submitted to the U.S. for tracing. Of those, many are indeed made in the U.S., but only about 3,500 are imported through the U.S.; the others may have gone through other countries.
Furthermore, analysts looking at data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms for the past two years determined that only 17 percent of guns found at Mexican crime scenes have been traced back to the United States.
Nonetheless, you’ll still hear people invoking the so-called “gun-show loophole,” in the context of discussing both the Virginia Tech massacre and Mexican cartel violence. Of course, the Virginia Tech shooter did not get his weapons from a gun show. A federal law on the books actually prohibited his purchase of a firearm because he had been legally declared a danger to himself two years earlier, but a problem in sharing data between state and federal governments meant no restrictions came in when he submitted his information for a background check.
Nor would the so-called “assault-weapons ban” have made any impact on the Virginia Tech shooter, according to the university’s review panel: “The panel also considered whether the previous federal Assault Weapons Act of 1994 that banned 15-round magazines would have made a difference in the April 16 incidents. The law lapsed after 10 years, in October 2004, and had banned clips or magazines with over 10 rounds. The panel concluded that 10-round magazines that were legal would have not made much difference in the incident. Even pistols with rapid loaders could have been about as deadly in this situation.”
You may also hear the “gun-show loophole” blamed for Mexican drug violence, an equally implausible claim, particularly if we use the gun-control advocates’ own numbers. The much-disputed number used by gun-control supporters is that 2,000 guns a day move from the United States to Mexico, which would come out to 730,000 guns per year. Yet in two years of investigating, the ATF seized a grand total of 5,345 weapons from 202 investigative operations at gun shows. In other words, these two arguments from the gun-control crowd are contradictory — if the number of guns being smuggled is as enormous as they claim, unlicensed dealers at gun shows could only provide a tiny fraction of that number.
This doesn’t even get into the issue of the cartels’ use of weapons that are completely illegal in the United States, including light anti-tank weapons, fragmentation grenades, etc. . . .