In recent weeks, efforts by the United States and Mexico to stop the illegal transfer of guns and drugs along their shared border have been on the front burner. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano traveled to Mexico earlier this month to meet with their Mexican counterparts to discuss what can be done. And this week President Barack Obama traveled down south to continue talks between the two nations.
During a joint press conference with President Felipe Calderón of Mexico, Obama said of the raging violence by Mexican drug gangs:
Obama, April 16: "A demand for these drugs in the United States is what is helping to keep these cartels in business. This war is being waged with guns purchased not here, but in the United States. More than 90 percent of the guns recovered in Mexico come from the United States, many from gun shops that line our shared border."
What Obama should have said is that 90 percent of the guns submitted by Mexican authorities and traced by the U.S. come from the U.S. But the president confused the percentage of guns "recovered" with the percentage of guns that Mexicans choose to submit for tracing by U.S. officials. Mexico actually recovers more guns than it submits, and thus the percentage of guns "recovered" must be less than the percentage traced to U.S. sources.
An Elusive Number
Given the lack of hard data from Mexico we can't calculate a precise figure for what portion of crime guns have been traced to the U.S. Based on the best evidence we can find so far, we conclude that the true percentage is probably less than half of the 90 percent claimed by the president and others in his administration, who base their claim on a badly biased sample of all guns seized in Mexico. But we also conclude that the number is probably at least double what Fox News has reported, based on their mistaken interpretation of ATF testimony.
Whether the number is 90 percent , or 36 percent, or something else, there's no dispute that thousands of guns are being illegalIy transported into Mexico by way of the United States each year.
N.B. - The Fox News reports putting this number at 17% is believed too low but far closer to reality than Obama's exaggerated claims. Irrespective, Obama is president and should have far better data...and a least a bit more honesty than Fox News.