lies, half-truths, and omissions.

The BBC has an article up on the gun-smuggling from the US to Mexico.  In typically one-sided fashion, it mentions that guns seized from narcos in Mexico are often traced back to the United States, and that the ATF isn’t effectively fighting this problem.

For those without much knowledge on the subject, it gives the impression that there’s a flood of illegal guns being bought in the US across the counter legally, and then shipped into Mexico to fuel the gun crime there–blaming our “lax gun laws” for Mexico’s narco turf war violence.

First of all, let’s point out that Mexico has a narco problem because the US has a hard-on for drug prohibition, not because Americans can buy guns legally.  I’ve often read that canard about drug buyers financing drug crime with their purchases, but the simple twofold truth is that a.) people will always desire and buy mind-altering substances, no matter what the law says, and b.) the War on Drugs serves as a price control mechanism and profit guarantee for dealers and traffickers.

Second, let’s look at that article a little more closely.  The picture that accompanies it shows a bunch of 40mm grenade launchers along with ammunition.  Looking at that, your average BBC reader could be lead to believe that those things are legal to buy and own freely in the US, and that they originated at a US gun show or gun store.  Grenade launchers are, of course, illegal to own, purchase, or sell in the United States without a special registration and tax stamp.  Grenade launchers are tightly controlled “destructive devices”, as is their ammunition.  (Every single 40mm grenade is also classified as a DD, and subject to a $200 transfer tax per round.  Each grenade must be individually registered with the BATFE, which makes them super-expensive and very rare to find in civilian hands.)  Considering the difficulty and expense of obtaining a launcher and the ammo for it, never mind the fact that every single launcher and round is registered to an owner with the ATF, I guarantee that the 40mm launchers in that picture came not from the US, but from Mexican military armories.

Third, the language in the article isn’t quite misleading, but it omits a few facts.  We are told that “the majority of guns confiscated by Mexico and submitted to the ATF for tracing do originate in the US <emphasis mine>.”  What it doesn’t mention is that the majority of guns seized from Mexican narcos do not originate in the US.  The Mexican Federales do not submit most of their seized guns to the ATF for tracing because they know their provenance already.  Mexico uses a licensed version of the H&K G36 assault rifle, for example, and whenever one of those shows up, they know it didn’t walk out of a gun store in San Antonio.  (They also use the licensed version of the H&K 40mm grenade launcher, which happens to look exactly like the weapon in the center of the picture.)  So they only send the serial numbers of the non-domestic guns to the ATF, which is the minority of seized weapons.  Reading the article over a quick latte, one could however get the impression that most of the crime guns in Mexico are traced back to the US, because they omit that information.

Lastly, even those guns that were bought in the US and then smuggled into Mexico for use by narcos didn’t get sold to Mexican nationals legally.  Gun shops have to run federal background checks on every single gun purchase, and foreign nationals, with few exceptions, are not eligible to buy firearms in the United States.  If a rifle made it from a legal buyer into the hands of a Mexican criminal, the person buying the rifle and then handing it to said criminal broke federal law.  (Buying a gun for a non-eligible person is called a “straw sale”, and will get you ten years in Club Fed.)

Mexico has plenty of problems, but corruption (where and how do you think the narcos get Mexican military hardware?) and the economic incentives created by drug prohibition make up the lion’s share of those, not legal gun sales in the United States.  You want to curb the flow of guns and stop the violence in Mexico, you stop guaranteeing those dealers and traffickers a 10,000% profit margin on some powdered plant product.  Drug dealers don’t care about cocaine or “poisoning America’s children”, they care about profit.  If you held a voter referendum on keeping or tossing drug prohibition, all the drug dealers in the country would vote to keep them illegal.  Take away their price control system, and they’ll go the way of the booze runners of the Prohibition era.

But nobody’s going to do that, of course.  Between asset forfeiture, inability to learn from the Prohibition, the suitability of drug laws to curb inconvenient liberties, and the millions on the payroll of drug task forces and agencies nationwide, that wouldn’t be good business.  And civil liberties continue to take it in the pants.

Remember: a vote for drug prohibition is a vote for gun control.  Without illicit substance turf wars, we wouldn’t even have NFA ’34, GCA ’68, or the 1994 Crime Bill.  We wouldn’t have asset forfeiture, RICO, or any of the many other onerous laws that shackle our movements and make a mockery of the Bill of Rights.  But point that out to a self-righteous dope prohibitionist, and you get the old saw about the damage drugs can do, and do you want to see schoolchildren legally light up crack pipes in front of the CVS at eight in the morning?  It’s the same kind of arrogant paternalism that the gun banners display when they talk about how blood would flow in the streets if we removed all the restrictions on gun ownership and carry.  “Well, I know that I wouldn’t abuse them, but I’m damned sure those peasants all around me couldn’t handle the liberty…”

24 thoughts on “lies, half-truths, and omissions.

  1. SemperGumby says:

    Nice to see another thought provoking piece. Great to have you back, Marko.

  2. perlhaqr says:

    Take away their price control system, and they’ll go the way of the booze runners of the Prohibition era.

    And next thing you’ll know, they’ll be Senators and Presidents. How you do say “Kennedy” in Mexican? *shudder* Might be better to simply keep the drugs illegal. 😉

  3. Peter says:

    It drives me absolutely nucking futs that a naturalized citizen understands this better than the average native born American.

    Frankly, we need more immigrants and we need to get them on the track for naturalization. By and large, THEY are the ones that truly understand civil liberties and the Constitution.

    Absolutely nucking futs.

  4. Rafael Cervera says:

    Great to read your piece about arms procurement for the Mexican Cartels.

    Numero Uno: An international organization such as the Mexican Cartels, heavy in cash, has no problem in procuring arms of any kind. Heck, with the money the cartels use for spare change they can have their own air force (of course they already have a submarine navy) with state of the art east block Migs.

    Numero Dos: The real reason the Mexican Government makes such a big noise about the flow of arms from the US-Mexico border is because they are afraid of re arming the citizens… after 90+ years of disarming the general populace (except for 22cal and 20 gauge shotgun permitted for “hunting”) the powers that be are afraid of having an armed citizenry capable of standing up to the corrupt lying, cheating government bureaucracy that has been in place ever since the last revolution.

    Numero Tres: The cartels can be defeated by legalizing drugs (40+ years of “War on Drugs” have not diminished drug use one bit) and instead of spending the billions of tax money on ever bigger law enforcement wet dreams must be on clinics to stem drug abuse at the problem level (Face it, in a commercial world, where there is a demand there will be a supplier…)

    Numero Tres: I have seen repression via the government (Tlatelolco 1968, the killings of the Mayas in Honduras, Argentina’s Dirty Wars) because there was no second amendment… Everyone has the right to state their beliefs and live with it, but when the powers that be have the guns and the populace don’t, well its a loosing battle for freedom and democracy.

    This is what is going on next door to the USA. The troops are half way around the world fighting for freedom and democracy in far away lands that don’t want us and yet in our own hemisphere the US government does not give a shoot.

    If Uncle Sam had spent a quarter of the money it has spent during the last 9 years in the middle east on Latin America, there would be NOT ONE ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT in the USA today.

    Think about it.

  5. Al T. says:

    “If Uncle Sam had spent a quarter of the money” uh, no. I’d rather we hadn’t spent the money anywhere, frankly. Spending money supporting dictators and/or repressive .govs in any form should be a one way ticket to hell. As Ralph Peters has stated, we should be the biggest, meanest, nastyist Human Rights Organization the world has ever seen….. Pumping money does not qualify. Selective strikes (AKA raids) on heads of state with the UN following close behind to govern until a republic can be established would qualify.

    Probably have to tidy up our house first though…

  6. Al Terego says:

    “Spending money supporting dictators and/or repressive .govs in any form should be a one way ticket to hell.”

    Hell, that would encompass us all :O)…it’s called taxation. Tidy up our house first, indeed.

    AT

  7. Owen says:

    good post.

  8. […] Marko on the lies in the press. […]

  9. Windy Wilson says:

    So, by the drug prohibitionists argument we should outlaw tobacco immediately and put it on whatever schedule addictive and psychoactive drugs are, because with tobacco a legal product we must already have school children (and I know that doesn’t refer to high school and college students) LEGALLy lighting up cigarettes, cigars and pipes outside the CVS every morning.

    Without the illegal profits and the cachet from using something your parents and other authority figures tell you not to use, restrictions similar to those already in use for tobacco and alcohol could easily be enforced as to the newly legal products.

  10. Wally says:

    The nonsense about “from the US” is a ridiculous arguement. Pick up a modern firearm and read the engraving. Southport, Conneticut ? Windham, Maine ? Springfield, MA? Miami, FL ? Pretty easy to attribute most (non mauser, non AK) firearms to US manufacture.

  11. O. W. says:

    Excellent article, but I would like to mention that the FX-05, to the best of my knowledge, is not a G36 clone. Of course if anyone has evidence to the contrary I will entertain the idea that I am completely wrong…

    All the same, the write up was wonderful. You always manage to make your point interesting and easily understood. Well, understood by some people, it seems.

  12. Roberta X says:

    This is something of an aside, but — what happens if you expend a tax-stamped grenade? Is there paperwork to fill out for the destruction of a registered Destructive Device?

    • Marko Kloos says:

      I don’t know for sure, but I intend to find out once I sell enough books to afford a Huey with a nose-mounted automatic 40mm grenade launcher.

    • wally says:

      You are supposed to report it “expended”, and the registry is revised to show such (note that it isn’t removed from the registry, just a status change).

      No official form for it, just a letter will do.

  13. Weetabix says:

    “Mexico has plenty of problems, but corruption … and the economic incentives created by drug prohibition make up the lion’s share of those, not legal gun sales in the United States.”

    But how do you take a picture of corruption? A table of guns, you can photograph.

  14. wolfwalker says:

    It’s the same kind of arrogant paternalism that the gun banners display when they talk about how blood would flow in the streets if we removed all the restrictions on gun ownership and carry. “Well, I know that I wouldn’t abuse them, but I’m damned sure those peasants all around me couldn’t handle the liberty…”

    Except for the demonstrable fact that an awful lot of people can’t handle drugs. A tobacco habit only drains your wallet and (sometimes) takes years off your life. Alcohol is safe in moderation; only in extreme amounts does it become dangerous. Smoking dope can fry your brain — and don’t tell me it won’t, I’ve seen too many formerly-smart kids who now can’t add two and two to believe you. Heroin, cocaine, meth … don’t know about them, but I refuse to believe that they’re harmless when used over many years.

    I agree the ‘war on drugs’ has probably cost more than it’s worth … but I don’t believe for a second that we wouldn’t see a blizzard of negative consequences if we legalized the sh*t.

    • Tam says:

      Smoking dope can fry your brain — and don’t tell me it won’t, I’ve seen too many formerly-smart kids who now can’t add two and two to believe you.

      If only it were against the law…

      • Marko Kloos says:

        No, silly. If we made drugs legal, the abuse would be even worse. Kind of like the gun banners in Chicago and DeeCee argue when they say that their already high gun crime would be even higher if guns were actually legal there. And much like at the end of Prohibition, when everyone in the country turned into raging alcoholics overnight.

        • Weer'd Beard says:

          Odd, one of my professors got piched with some weed back in my college days. And not one of my questionably intelligent Liberal Arts profs, one of the really good biology ones.

          Is smoking weed good for you? Nope. Does it “Fry your brain” even at moderate use? Data points to. “No”.

        • Marko Kloos says:

          Alcohol is far more destructive to the old noggin than weed, and booze kills more people every year than all illegal drugs combined. But Mr. Senator Congressman likes his three-martini lunches, and Joe Sixpack his case of Bud Light, so we’ll just pretend that the Wacky Terbaccy is Of The Devil.

    • Al Terego says:

      Baccy, booze, weed, horse, blow, ice…and let’s not forget the pharm farm.

      “…I refuse to believe that they’re harmless…”

      Only an idiot would argue otherwise.

      But that is entirely beside the point, and the fact that so many have been innoculated to believe it is the function of gov to protect us from ourselves is the most harmful addiction of all.

      AT

  15. Will says:

    “Well, I know that I wouldn’t abuse them, but I’m damned sure those peasants all around me couldn’t handle the liberty…”

    This is wrong, by my observations. Those idiots know they WOULD misuse them. (they all tell me this, when the subject of guns comes up) And, thinking that everyone else is the same as them, push to keep them away from “like-minded idiots”. Seems to be a defining trait of liberals to have little self-control when it comes to violence.

  16. Al T. says:

    “Those idiots know they WOULD misuse them.” Will, that’s very interesting as I’ve had the same exact conversation several times. My take is that a lot of the gun grabbers are actually honest folks who project their problems onto others. That’s why (IMHO) talking to prohibitionists of most any stripe is futile.

    Marko, from the days of the Whiskey Rebellion, .gov has proved willing to kill to get it’s money.

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