Not a Flood but a Trickle

Number of U.S. guns recovered at Mexican crime scenes far lower than Obama administration claims

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The number of U.S. guns recovered at Mexican crime scenes is far lower than originally claimed by the Obama administration and spiked shortly after the conclusion of Operation Fast and Furious, according to data released by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms Thursday.

The ATF has traced more than 68,000 firearms recovered at Mexican crime scenes over the last four years back to the U.S., the agency said. The bureau released data on gun traces from Mexican crime scenes between the years of 2007 and 2011.

The ATF ran traces on nearly 100,000 weapons recovered in Mexico, meaning U.S. weapons accounted for roughly 68 percent of those traced.

The 68 percent figure is much less than previous estimates floated by the Obama administration and gun-control advocates, who claimed U.S. guns accounted for more than 90 percent of weapons in cartel violence.

"A demand for these drugs in the United States is what is helping to keep these cartels in business," President Obama said in April 2009. "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."

But even the 68 percent figure only reflects the guns submitted by the Mexican government to the ATF for tracing. The Mexican government is not obligated to turn over weapons for tracing.

The effect of Operation Fast and Furious is also not taken into account in the ATF’s data.

The ATF allowed more than 2,000 guns to be "walked" across the U.S.-Mexican border by straw-purchasers and delivered to violent drug cartels between 2009 and 2010 as part of the controversial operation.

Guns linked to Operation Fast and Furious were linked to the murder of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in 2010. They have also been linked to hundreds of other violent crimes across Mexico.

The number of recovered guns traced back to the U.S. peaked in 2008 at 21,035. The number dropped to 6,404 by 2010, but more than doubled in 2011 to 14,504.

Republican investigators who have led congressional efforts to uncover more information about Fast and Furious said the ATF’s numbers were only more evidence of the Obama administration’s failure.

"The Obama Justice Department's efforts to facilitate the transfer of thousands of weapons to Mexican drug cartels does not appear to have helped stop the flow of illegal weapons to Mexico," a spokesperson for the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform told the Free Beacon Thursday.

One figure not included in the ATF’s data was "time-to-crime"—the amount of time between when a firearm was purchased and when it was recovered at a crime scene.

An ATF document obtained by the Free Beacon in February revealed that, of the 20,023 guns recovered between 2006 and 2010 at Mexican crime scenes and traced back to U.S. purchasers, 15,995 had a "time-to-crime" of three or more years, with an average time of 15 years.

The significant time between purchase and recovery suggests the "flood" of guns depicted by the Obama administration is exaggerated.

A Justice Department report states "the recovery of a crime gun within 2 to 3 years after its initial purchase is considered a short time-to-crime and a significant trafficking indicator."

Drug violence has killed more than 47,000 people in Mexico over the past six years.

CJ Ciaramella   Email CJ | Full Bio | RSS
CJ Ciaramella is a staff writer for the Washington Free Beacon. Prior to joining the Beacon, he was a reporter for the Daily Caller. He was also a Collegiate Network year-long fellow at the San Diego Union-Tribune and has written articles for the Weekly Standard and Oregon Quarterly. Ciaramella attended the University of Oregon, where he edited the award-winning student magazine, the Oregon Commentator. He lives in Washington, D.C. His Twitter handle is @cjciaramella. His email address is ciaramella@freebeacon.com.

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