Here is an excerpt from William La Jeunesse and Maxim Lott's article on FOXNews.com:
"You've heard this shocking "fact" before -- on TV and radio, in newspapers, on the Internet and from the highest politicians in the land: 90 percent of the weapons used to commit crimes in Mexico come from the United States... 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 FOXNews.com, 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. 'Not every weapon seized in Mexico has a serial number on it that would make it traceable, and the U.S. effort to trace weapons really only extends to weapons that have been in the U.S. market,' Matt Allen, special agent of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), told FOX News" Link to Full Article
Analysis: Because I still work in this business and (a) want to keep my job, (b) want to continue to get good, reliable information, and (c) don't want to get any of my colleagues and contacts in trouble, I can't tell you the names of my sources or the agencies they work for. I can tell you I have it on good authority from a trusted source that not all the information in this article is true, and even the grains of truth that have been pieced together to form this article provide a misleading and inaccurate picture of the weapons trafficking problem that ultimately does a great disservice to the agencies that actively work southbound weapons trafficking issues.
Towards the end of the article, the authors quote the Mexican Ambassador to the US as saying 2,000 weapons from the US are seized per day in Mexico. That's just flat wrong - 2,000 guns per day reportedly FLOW INTO Mexico from the US, which is quite different than saying that many guns are seized daily, and I'm not even sure that number is accurate anyway. And the authors' basic math is really bad. According to the article, 68% of guns recovered by the Mexican government from 2007-2008 were never submitted for tracing. 29,000 guns were recovered, and 11,000 WERE submitted. That means 18,000 were NOT submitted. That's 62% folks, not 68%; if you're going to write an article with information that goes completely against the grain of what's out there on a hot-button topic like weapons trafficking, you have to at least get the basic numbers right. Then the authors combine the guns the ATF could not successfully trace - no reason was provided as to why - and the guns that were never submitted for tracing in the first place into one pile of guns and say that none of those guns could be traced to the US. That DOES NOT MEAN THEY DID NOT COME FROM THE US...that just means no one can prove it through checking a database. Any statistics amateur can tell you that the 6,000 guns submitted for tracing represents a sample of all the guns seized - and a good size sample, at that. If 90% of those guns were successfully traced back to the US, then STATISTICALLY SPEAKING, there's a pretty good chance that somewhere close to 90% of the untraceable guns and guns NOT submitted for tracing came from the US as well. I'm not sure how anyone can tell just by looking at a gun that it definitely was not originally sold in the US; if the authors know such an important fact, why didn't they explain in more detail how this non-US identification is made?
The authors present a lot of statistics in their article, but what is lacking is a considerable amount of context. It's true that many high-powered assault weapons, RPGs, grenades, etc. are not and cannot be [legally] purchased in the US by private individuals, so those things would not fall within the 90% statistic. What the authors DON'T tell you is that many of those weapons are part of legal government-to-government sales (not just from the US to the Mexican government), and they end up in the hands of the DTOs by various means. Just because those weapons came from El Salvador or South Korea or Israel doesn't mean they were manufactured there - there's still a really good chance they originally came from the US and arrived in Mexico through a more circuitous route. The authors say the standard issue weapon for Mexican army soldiers is the "Belgian-made M-16," which is also untrue. While the Mexican army does use the M-16, the current standard-issue rifle is the FX-05 or the H&K G3. Also, the M-16 is NOT technically Belgian-made, although some aspects are Belgian-designed. The M-16 and its many variants are mostly made by Colt Manufacturing - a US company - and Fabrique Nationale's US subsidiary in South Carolina.
Another disturbing issue the authors don't mention is the legal availabilty of parts kits for assault weapons in the US. According to the Impact Guns Online Superstore website, "[parts] kits are what's left from real AK-47, or AK-47 rifles that were cut in half to destroy them as weapons. Those parts are legal to import since they are not a gun. They are a great inexpensive source of spare parts for your AK, since many AK-47 parts are interchangeable between models. These kits are also made back into legal rifles in the US with American made receivers and semi automatic trigger parts. This is a fun project for those who can do it, but it takes lots of tools and knowledge of metalworking to do a good job. Many of the AK-47 rifles you'll see at a [US] Gun Shop or Gun Show will have been made from these parts kits." The kits and parts for other assault weapons, such as the AR-15, can be legally purchased on numerous websites that are US-based. A DTO-obtained assault weapon put together in the US using AK-47 parts and a US-made receiver would probably fall under the "untraceable" category - but it still originated in the US. I'm also not a fan of the implication the authors make that just because a gun doesn't have a serial number (more and more weapons seized in Mexico have the serial numbers filed off), it probably didn't come from the US. Based on the TYPE of weapon seized (such as a semi-automatic handun or revolver or rifle), you CAN REASONABLY ASSUME it was sold - probably legally - in the US and moved south into Mexico.
I'm not saying that all the information in this article is bad, although it appears I ripped it apart. It's an important point to make that some firearms and other weapons like grenades, RPGs, LAW rockets, etc. come from other countries. It's also true that, technically speaking, of the 29,000 firearms seized in Mexico between 2007-2008, only 17% were successfully traced back to the US. However, the authors conveniently leave out the critical context of firearms that were never submitted or not successfully traced. They also got a LOT of basic facts wrong, and you can't do that when you're a professional journalist working for a major media outlet. This attempt to make headlines through an "exclusive" viewpoint about southbound weapons trafficking just detracts readers from the real problem with confusing statistics and just plain bad information.