When all is said and done, only 17 percent of the guns seized by the Mexican authorities from the drug lords were actually traced back to the U.S. The incorrect assumption that 90 percent of the cartels’ guns come from the U.S., though, continues to be regularly cited by the media and officials. The highly-respected STRATFOR intelligence company agrees that the statistic is incorrect. The group likewise explained that only 3,480 guns were traced back to the U.S., which equals 12 percent of the total arms seized by the Mexican authorities in 2008 and less than 48 percent of those sent for tracing.
“According to the figures presented by the GAO [Government Accountability Office], there is no evidence to support the assertion that 90 percent of the guns used by the Mexican cartels come from the United States—especially when not even 50 percent of those that were submitted for tracing were ultimately found to be of U.S. origin,” STRATFOR concluded.
In addition, it simply doesn’t make sense for the Mexican drug cartels to make the U.S. their primary point of gun acquisition. As Howard Nemerov writes, “Why would cartels spend over $1,000 — plus a background check and smuggling risks — for a decent American semi-automatic rifle, when they can buy 4-5 fully automatic AK-47s for the same price on the black market?”
Even if it were true that U.S. gun laws are responsible for the violence in Mexico, these arms have to cross the porous border to end up being used in the drug war. Securing the border is a much more sensible solution than severe gun control laws, which wouldn’t be able to stop already-purchased guns from going south. This obvious fact isn’t mentioned because the Mexican government and left-wing politicians would rather portray gun control, rather than border security, as the solution. Furthermore, even if the U.S. was no longer a source for guns, the drug cartels would still have other sources, heavy weapons would still flow through Guatemala, and the corrupt, inefficient and risk-averse Mexican police and military would still be unable to defeat the drug cartels.
If the past is any indication, the U.S. and its gun laws will still be blamed for the drug war in Mexico, but it is only a distraction. The violence in Mexico continues to spiral out of control, and until the real problems and solutions are addressed, the death toll will only climb.
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