Top of the Ticket

Political commentary from the LA Times

« Previous Post | Top of the Ticket Home | Next Post »

Barack Obama wrong on U.S. guns in Mexico: FactCheck.org-updated

April 17, 2009 |  5:36 pm
ObamaMexdrugs-gunsguillermoariasap4-09

(UPDATE: On April 22 FactCheck.org withdrew its flat statement that the president was wrong, saying it could not prove that. An updated item appeared here.)

On his recently concluded first visit to Mexico as president, a week after telling Europeans that his country had been at times arrogant, President Barack Obama blamed his own country for providing 90% of Mexico's recovered crime guns.

According to a report by the independent FactCheck.org this afternoon, that's incorrect. By a, uh, long shot.

The president's assertion, also cited by Mexican President Felipe Calderon during their joint news conference in Mexico City, and the reported inaccuracy seems likely to fuel the eternal American gun-control debate, especially as it relates to the U.S. role in Mexico's deadly drug world.

Here's the FactCheck full summary:

There's no dispute that thousands of handguns, military-style rifles and other firearms are purchased in the U.S. and end up in the hands of Mexican criminals each year. It's relatively easy to buy such guns legally in Texas and other border states and to smuggle them across.

But is it true as President Obama said, that "more than 90 percent of the guns recovered in Mexico come from the United States?" No, it's not.

The figure represents only the percentage of crime guns that have been submitted by Mexican officials and traced by U.S. officials. We can find no hard data on the total number of guns actually "recovered in Mexico," but U.S. and Mexican officials both say that Mexico recovers more guns that it submits for tracing.  Therefore, the percentage of guns "recovered" and traced to U.S. sources necessarily is less than 90 percent.

Furthermore, the 90 percent figure is based on a badly biased sample of all Mexican crime guns. Law enforcement officials say Mexico asks the U.S. to trace only those guns with serial numbers or other markings that indicate they are likely to have come though the U.S. 

Fox News has put the percentage at only 17 percent, but we find that to be based on a mistaken assumption that throws its figure way off. We can't offer a precise calculation because we know of no hard information on the total number of guns Mexican officials have recovered.

But if a rough figure given by Mexico's attorney general is accurate, then the actual percentage of all Mexican crime guns traced to U.S. sources is probably less than half what the president claims, and more than double what Fox news has reported.

Thecomplete FactCheck report is available here.

We have a video report on Obama's Mexico stay too. (Scroll down or click the "Read more" line.)

-- Andrew Malcolm

No weapons necessary to click here and register for automatic Twitter alerts of each new Ticket item. Or follow  @latimestot

Photo: Guillermo Arias / Associated Press (Guns and drugs seized in Mexico).

Comments 

Advertisement










Video