View Full Version : Tracing the "90% of guns from US" Bad Gun Math

04-01-2009, 11:57 AM
Cool, this is from NarcoSphere as well. Tons of links. :)


Tracing the Bad Gun Math
Submitted March 30, 2009 - 9:04 pm by Bill Conroy

A big part of the argument being made by the U.S. and Mexican governments with respect to the source of guns in the possession of Mexican narco-trafficking groups is based on statistics related to so-called gun traces conducted by the ATF.

But if you follow the media narrative on this, as well as the U.S. government’s own proclamations, you soon discover that the math being practiced is right out of Alice in Wonderland, via the Mock Turtle: Reeling and Writhing, of course, to begin with, and then the different branches of arithmetic -- Ambition, Distraction, Uglification, and Derision.

I didn’t want to weigh a story down with this funny math — and I expect that is what the practitioners of this arithmetic alchemy are counting on — but for those who are interested, here is a run down of the madness being packaged and sold to us as fact.

From a Feb. 27, 2009, report from the U.S. Department of State: (http://www.state.gov/p/inl/rls/nrcrpt/2009/vol1/116522.htm)

As of November 12, 2008, GOM [Government of Mexico] security forces had seized 39,437 illegal firearms, including the record-breaking seizure of weapons believed to belong to the Zetas of the Gulf cartel.

[Presumably that is for the year 2008, since the figure comes from a State Department report that offers a review of statistics from 2008.]

A Feb. 28, 2009, CBS/Associated Press story (http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/02/28/world/main4835694.shtml), however, presents a different set of facts, based, in part, on Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s statements:

"We need to stop the flow of guns and weapons towards Mexico," President Calderon told AP. "Let me express to you that we've seized in this two years more than 25,000 weapons and guns, and more than 90 percent of them came from United States, and I'm talking from missiles launchers to machine guns and grenades."

[Calderon’s two-year, 25,000 gun-seizure figure is remarkable in that it is considerably less than the State Department’s figure for less than one year.]

That same CBS/AP report offers up the following so-called facts:

The ATF says more than 7,700 guns sold in America were traced to Mexico last year, up from 3,300 the year before and about 2,100 in 2006.

The report fails to make clear whether the years in question are calendar or fiscal years, [and for the U.S. government, the fiscal year ends on Sept. 30, three months prior to the end of the calendar year]. Presumably the CBS/AP report was just imprecise and meant to refer to fiscal years, since that is generally the basis on which the ATF and other government agencies report their statistics.

The New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/25/world/americas/25mexico.html?_r=1&ref=americas), in a March 25, 2009, story then offers up this gem of a statistic, divorced of any context:

On top of that, 90 percent of the guns used by Mexican drug cartels originated in the United States, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

We have to ask here, 90 percent of what? Does the Times mean 90 percent of guns traced by ATF, since Mexico does not have a gun tracing system (http://www.portfolio.com/news-markets/international-news/portfolio/2008/06/16/Examining-the-US-Mexico-Gun-Trade), or do they really mean to say 90 percent of all guns used by drug cartels? If so, the ATF must then have an inventory of all the guns still in the “cartels’” possession, right? Wonder how they got that?

The Wall Street Journal (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123595012797004865.html) does a bit better than AP in it’s precision over the nature of the year being described in a March 2, 2009, story that includes this bit of data:

The number of U.S. guns in Mexico is growing. The Justice Department's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or ATF, says more than 7,700 guns sold in America were traced to Mexico in the fiscal year ending last September. That's twice the 3,300 recorded the previous year [fiscal 2007]and more than triple the 2,100 traced the year before that.

So it looks, indeed, as though the AP report was, in fact, referring to a fiscal year in presenting its ATF gun-trace figures.

However, the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/26/us/26borders.html), again, seems to be working from a different set of books, as it reports in a Feb. 26, 2009, story, the following:

In 2007, the firearms agency [ATF] traced 2,400 weapons seized in Mexico back to dealers in the United States, and 1,800 of those came from dealers operating in the four states along the border, with Texas first, followed by California, Arizona and New Mexico.

Again, that 2,400 figure is some 900 guns shy of the 3,300 gun traces the Wall Street Journal reported for that same year — assuming the Times is working with fiscal-year numbers, though the ambiguity helps to cover the imprecise reporting.

But both the New York Times and Wall Street Journal gun-tracing figures from fiscal 2007 don’t match the numbers reported by the ATF in a Feb. 7, 2008, congressional testimony (http://foreignaffairs.house.gov/110/hoo020708.htm), and included in the recent White House press release (http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Administration-Officials-Announce-US-Mexico-Border-Security-Policy-A-Comprehensive-Response-and-Commitment/)trumpeting it’s expanded border protection plan:

In FY 2007 alone, approximately 1,112 guns which originated in Texas, Arizona and California were submitted for tracing from Mexico. For all other U.S. States in FY 2007, approximately 435 guns were submitted for tracing from Mexico.

By my math, according to the congressional testimony, the tally of guns submitted to ATF for tracing in fiscal 2007 is 1,547 — far short of the marks reported by both the Times and Journal.

Based on all that, on what basis do we get to the regular claim in the mainstream media that 90 percent of the guns used by the “cartels” originate in the U.S.? It just doesn’t add up.

But don’t expect the bad math to stop, because there is an agenda to push and press deadlines to meet.

Investigators say nine out of 10 guns retrieved from crime scenes south of the border are traced back to U.S. gun dealers. — Reuters, March 23, 2009 (http://www.reuters.com/article/politicsNews/idUSTRE52M7S720090323)

ETA: Looks like this congressional testimony (http://foreignaffairs.house.gov/110/hoo020708.htm) posted above is where the 90 percent is coming from!

04-01-2009, 12:28 PM
90% of Democrats in both houses, are total and complete morons.

Hey! This is fun with figures!

100% of liberals are ignorant asshats...hahahahahahaaaaa!!

04-01-2009, 8:36 PM
O.K., posting that ATF testimony was very helpful in tracking this myth down. The agent's testimony was that "there is more than enough evidence to indicate that over 90 percent of the firearms that have either been recovered in, or interdicted in transport to Mexico, originated from various sources within the United States." He goes on to cite "firearms trace data" for his analysis.

Key points are "originated" and "firearms trace". All it amounts to is that of the particular guns that were traced, 90 percent originated in the United States. It doesn't define "originate." It could simply mean that they were Smith and Wesson or Ruger revolvers originally manufactured in the U.S., without conveying any meaning about their subsequent chain of custody.

Clearly, that does not substantiate media claims that 90 percent of guns in Mexico come from the U.S. - - it cannot mean that because they cannot know if the "traced" firearms are representative of all Mexico firearms. Nor can it mean that guns in Mexico result from U.S. civilian commerce, and the accompanying implication that banning guns from U.S. civilian commerce will solve Mexico's drug cartel violence.

But of course, like the terms "Saturday Night Special", "Assault Weapon", and "Cop Killer Bullets", the dominant media are not particularly interested in accuracy nor objectivity.

04-01-2009, 9:15 PM
As I've seen others make and educated guess I think this is what is going on.

Of the firearms traced (and no one traces the actual FA or other firearms that clearly couldn't have been acquired in America over the counter) 90% of those come up as being sold in the USA. That correlation should surprise no one.


04-01-2009, 11:35 PM
... and so it begins. In order to stop the violence in Mexico from "spreading over the border" we need to stop guns from getting to Mexico. But that can only be done if guns cease from being sold in the USA because that's where they're coming from. Ipso facto, guns in the USA need to be banned.

No doubt this starts with "assault weapons." Seeing as how Congress was so quick to tax 90% of employee bonuses with blatant disregard and contempt of the constitution, no doubt this will follow. Afterall, "assault weapons" are evil.

04-02-2009, 12:05 AM
I heard the Mexican Gov. has refused to give serial# so the DOD could verify where the guns originated from. If Mexico really thought that they are coming from "US civilian" market they would release the serial# to help make their case. IMVHO

04-02-2009, 8:19 AM
It's finally being corrected in the media:


04-02-2009, 9:45 AM
Just seen another Fox News report on TV. Mexico is only submitting about thirty percent of the guns found for tracing. Most firearms found don't have serial numbers on them, so they cannot be traced and are presumed to be chinese or russian. Fox News stated that according to their stats about 83% of the firearms are not from the U.S. They were reporting from Paulen, AZ federal range shooting a full auto AK.