Congress has jumped in with both feet when it comes to the crisis of violence in Mexico, and the usual suspects are once again blaming American gun owners and American gun laws. This week there were two more hearings, one in the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Drugs and Crime, and the other in the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Western Hemisphere. In both cases, anti-gun politicians such as Senators Dick Durbin and Dianne Feinstein, and Congressman Eliot Engel, blamed American gun laws for the crisis. Fortunately, in both hearings, gun rights supporters in Congress stood up for American gun owners.
In the House subcommittee hearing, Chairman Engel made it clear from the onset he viewed this issue from one perspective: guns. His solution to the ultra violent Mexican drug cartels is to blame American gun owners and American gun laws.
Kristen Rand, the Legislative Director of the Violence Policy Center, repeated the unsubstantiated claim that 90% of guns seized from the cartels come from the U.S., blamed America's gun laws and called for BATFE to use the broadest possible interpretation of the "sporting purposes" test to ban a much larger class of semi-auto rifles.
Congressman Connie Mack (R-Fla.), however, challenged Rand's claim that 90% of guns seized from the cartels are from the United States. Rand cited the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) for her claim. But the BATFE has only stated that 90% of the guns traced are from America. BATFE only traces a fraction of the guns seized; those firearms are not selected randomly, but are likely selected because they are the guns most likely to have come from the U.S. Trace data reveals nothing about the large number of guns that are not traced.
In defending her call to ban the import of all "assault rifles" into America, Rand admitted she had no idea how many of those guns were subsequently smuggled into Mexico. But a recent article in the Los Angles Times may shed some light on the real source of the cartels' weapons. The article describes the military arms being used by cartels in their battles with the Mexican army and federal police, and how those weapons are entering Mexico not through the U.S., but through Central America.
In the Senate Judiciary subcommittee, Chairman Durbin also made it clear he thought American guns, and not drug lords, drug users or illegal gun traffickers are the cause of violence in Mexico. Durbin had a terse exchange with Senator Jeff Sessions when Senator Sessions stated that American guns were not the problem. Durbin snapped back at the Senator from Alabama, stating his firm belief that guns were indeed the problem.
In addition to Durbin, Senator Dianne Feinstein used this forum to express her long opposition to American gun owners' rights. In her remarks she made it clear she intends to use this crisis as an excuse to promote new gun laws here at home. During her remarks, she repeated the claim that 90% of seized guns come from America, and also stated that there are over 2,000 guns smuggled into Mexico from the U.S. each day.
Feinstein even tried to elicit support for that number from a representative from the BATFE. But when he responded that the number was much lower, most likely in the hundreds, Senator Feinstein was clearly unhappy that he would not endorse her anti-gun soundbite.
Not everything that came out of the hearings was negative. In the Senate hearing, Senator Sessions made it clear that American gun rights should not be sacrificed. His statement of support sent the message to anti-gun senators that they would find strong opposition to their efforts to use the Mexico crisis as an excuse to undermine those rights.
Additionally, three representatives of U.S. law enforcement, one each from BATFE, Drug Enforcement Agency, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, made it clear that the increase in violence in Mexico is being misinterpreted by the media and politicians. They testified that the increase in violence is a direct result of the actions taken by Mexican President Felipe Calderon to take on the cartels. The cartels, they testified, are being pressured more than ever before and are fighting back in desperation, resulting in casualties. But in the end, they believed, the battle to shut down the cartels would be won.
For American gun owners, the battle will be to make sure that our Second Amendment rights are not sacrificed by scheming anti-gun politicians who see an opportunity to advance their gun ban agenda.
NRA-ILA will continue to closely monitor all activities relating to the crisis in Mexico and will keep our members informed.