Saturday, April 04, 2009

Gun Control Battle Looms Over Stats

Over the last couple weeks there has been a statistic throw in on top of various media coverage of the escalating border violence in Mexico: that 90% of the firearms involved are from America.

Now this certainly doesn't seem implausible. One can imagine a border porous enough to allow literally tons of drugs and people in as well as tons of money and people out is certainly porous enough to smuggle firearms as well. But just because it may appear plausible, doesn't mean we should assume, nor does it mean we should allow Congress to set policy that could restrict rights on what may end up being hysterical and unfounded claims.

Conservatives and 2nd Amendment activists are probably fully aware that there is some doubt on what the statistic bandied about actually implies. From Fox News:

There's just one problem with the 90 percent "statistic" and it's a big one:

It's just not true.

In fact, it's not even close. The fact is, only 17 percent of guns found at Mexican crime scenes have been traced to the U.S.

What's true, an ATF spokeswoman told, in a clarification of the statistic used by her own agency's assistant director, "is that over 90 percent of the traced firearms originate from the U.S."

But a large percentage of the guns recovered in Mexico do not get sent back to the U.S. for tracing, because it is obvious from their markings that they do not come from the U.S.

The article cites the ATF's own statistics and quotes the ATF's own people showing that the figure was being used disingenuously by long time proponents of more gun control in the new Administration and Congress.

Their related video notes that the quote this figure was originally based on was a goof during testimony that was later clarified (yet long time proponents of gun control are pushing the figure as if that clarification and current data don't exist):

The NRA, for its part, has been sending out alerts to members essentially warning them that the situation is being distorted in the media in what may end up being a push to build momentum among the public for gun control policies that the new Democratic Party hold on government may want to implement in spite winning primarily on other issues.

What the situation seems to come down to is that many of our current leaders and many in the media have little interest in accurately depicting the situation, let alone questioning any possible flaws in the arguments supporting policies they have long pushed for. There are many rights and liberties that allow for black market trade across the border, most of them not so clearly enumerated in the Constitution as something the Congress cannot infringe upon as gun ownership. One can only imagine the police state that would be required to empower the government to effectively hunt down everyone involved with this drug trade... from removing limits on stops and seizures, to limiting freedom of movement, etc. Many have good reason to believe that the drug war has already been used an excuse to infringe upon our rights by expanding government power beyond its Constitutional limits. This would be a further step in that direction.

A certain hypocrisy stands out in my mind with this particular issue. Many of those attempting to use the fear and hysteria of the situation to infringe upon an enumerated Constitutional right were often the same folks criticizing the Bush Administration for using fear and hysteria to expand government power in a way that could infringe upon our rights. Sadly, they seem unmoved by their own hypocrisy.

For some the matter comes down to people not really believing that the 2nd Amendment says what it actually says, but somehow the word "militia" being in it negates what it clearly states. For those folks, I'll refer them to my primer on the militia (originally intended for 2nd Amendment activists) which includes a brief history of the meaning and the legal definitions. The read is often a bit of a shock for those unfamiliar with the concept beyond revolutionary minutemen.

Anti-gun Democrats should be extremely worried about the ramifications involved with setting these kind of precedents though. If they are allowed to blatantly infringe upon rights that are clearly enumerated, what is to stop some future court from doing the same to rights and liberties they rightly hold dear that are constructions upon precedent and not so clearly enumerated, if they are enumerated at all (beyond the mention of liberty itself).

As always, the power and/or precedent one supports for their party or faction to have and/or create should always be tempered with how those things may be used by their ideological opponents when they inevitably regain control of the government in our cyclical pattern of governance.


Coyote said...

Just curious.. there any other news outlet which is saying this? I do not trust FAUXNews at all. I saw the Glenn Beck fake crying clip over the weekend. IMHO, "A Current Affair" has more credibility than Sean Hannity & Co.

Glock21 said...

That's my complaint. Only conservative and pro-gun media outlets seem to be reporting that the ATF itself, the agency cited for the 90% figure, is saying that the 90% figure is for a very small portion of guns confiscated (ie... the ones sent back to the US for tracing). Most of the guns aren't sent back for tracing here at all. Which would make sense if most of the guns confiscated are obviously from other countries or are weapons acquired from the corrupt Mexican government.

The ultimate source for the information is the ATF, not Fox News. The problem is that other media outlets seem absolutely unconcerned that the ATF's actual figures don't match the usage by politicians attempting to skew them to mean something else entirely, almost certainly to promote more restrictions off the fear and hysteria of the border violence.

The politics of fear has never been a one-party tactic. If it's not 'zomg terrorists' it's 'zomg wild west.' If it's not 'zomg socialism' it's 'zomg they'll steal your social security checks.' etc etc etc.