Guns And The Black Market

There's been a lot of talk on how criminals get guns. Besides the traditional ways like stealing them from
people that have them legally or robbing the local gun store, some people say that there are a lot of gun
collector / dealers that sell guns at shows and on the black market. There have been some cases of people
going to gun shows and buying guns because they know that they would not pass the background checks
that are already in place. Sadly some of those did use the guns for violent crimes later, but your average
criminal doesn't have money or if he does he buys the gun from the street like a 9mm pistol (the most
widely used and acquired) that goes for an average street price of 75 dollars. You can't get any 9mm
handgun from a gun show for 75 dollars. Now the gun dealers that do sell to any cartels for the
love of money need to be dealt with severely and harshly! When I was researching this it appalled me that
some of these guys sell "off the books" just to make money, but it's mostly to organized crime syndicates
not your average Joe on the street.

The ATF states that 90 percent of the guns siezed coming from Mexico are from the United States.
Well I had to dig deep and here's what I found.
Interestingly, the part of this argument pertaining to guns has been adopted by many politicians and
government officials in the United States in recent years. It has now become quite common to hear U.S.
officials confidently assert that 90 percent of the weapons used by the Mexican drug cartels come from
the United States. However, a close examination of the dynamics of the cartel wars in Mexico and of how
the oft-echoed 90 percent number was reached - clearly demonstrates that the number is more political
rhetoric than empirical fact.

According to the GAO report, some 30,000 firearms were seized from criminals by Mexican authorities in
2008. Of these 30,000 firearms, information pertaining to 7,200 of them (24 percent) was submitted to the
U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) for tracing. Of these 7,200 guns, only
about 4,000 could be traced by the ATF, and of these 4,000, some 3,480 (87 percent) were shown to have
come from the United States.

This means that the 87 percent figure relates to the number of weapons submitted by the Mexican government
to the ATF that could be successfully traced and not from the total number of weapons seized by Mexican
authorities or even from the total number of weapons submitted to the ATF for tracing. In fact, the 3,480 guns
positively traced to the United States equals less than 12 percent of the total arms seized in Mexico in 2008
and less than 48 percent of all those submitted by the Mexican government to the ATF for tracing. This means
that almost 90 percent of the guns seized in Mexico in 2008 were not traced back to the United States.

The category of weapons encountered in Mexico is military-grade ordnance not generally available for sale in
the United States or Mexico. This category includes hand grenades, 40 mm grenades, rocket-propelled
grenades (RPGs), automatic assault rifles and main battle rifles and light machine guns.

These types of weapons are fairly difficult and very expensive to obtain in the United States, especially in
the large numbers in which the cartels are employing them. They are also dangerous to obtain in the
United States due to heavy law enforcement scrutiny. Therefore, most of the military ordnance used by
the Mexican cartels comes from other sources, such as the international arms market -- increasingly from
China via the same networks that furnish precursor chemicals for narcotics manufacturing -- or from corrupt
elements in the Mexican military or even deserters who take their weapons with them. Besides, items such
as South Korean fragmentation grenades and RPG-7s, often used by the cartels, simply are not in the U.S.
arsenal. This means that very few of the weapons in this category come from the United States.

In recent years the cartels, especially their enforcer groups such as Los Zetas, Gente Nueva and La Linea,
have been increasingly using military weaponry instead of sporting arms. A close examination of the arms
seized from the enforcer groups and their training camps clearly demonstrates this trend toward military
ordnance, including many weapons not readily available in the United States. Some of these seizures have
included M60 machine guns and hundreds of 40 mm grenades obtained from the military arsenals of
countries like Guatemala.

But Guatemala is not the only source of such weapons. Latin America is awash in weapons that were
shipped there over the past several decades to supply the various insurgencies and counterinsurgencies
in the region. When these military-grade weapons are combined with the rampant corruption in the region,
they quickly find their way into the black arms market. The Mexican cartels have supply-chain contacts that
help move narcotics to Mexico from South America, and they are able to use this same network to obtain
guns from the black market in South and Central America and then smuggle them into Mexico.

There are also some cases of overlap between classes of weapons. For example, the FN Five-Seven pistol
is available for commercial purchase in the United States, but the 5.7x28 armor-piercing ammunition for the
pistol favored by the cartels is not -- it is a restricted item. However, some of the special operations forces
units in the Mexican military are issued the Five-Seven as well as the FN P90 personal defense weapon,
which also shoots the 5.7x28 round, and the cartels are obtaining some of these weapons and the armor-
piercing ammunition from them and not from the United States. Conversely, we see bulk 5.56 mm and
7.62 mm ammunition bought in the United States and smuggled into Mexico, where it is used in fully
automatic AK-47s and M16s purchased elsewhere. As noted above, China has become an increasingly
common source for military weapons like grenades and fully automatic assault rifles in recent years.

There has clearly been a long and well-documented history of arms smuggling across the U.S.-Mexico
border and there are some corrupt gun dealers here in the U.S. but it is important to recognize that, while
the United States is a significant source of certain classes of weapons and ammunition (such as 9mm
.45 caliber and 357 revolvers), it is by no means the source of 90 percent of the weapons used by the
Mexican cartels, as is commonly asserted.

Uploaded 01/17/2013
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