Friday, April 3, 2009

Gun Statistic Is A Flat Out Lie

HotAir highlights a Fox News report debunking a widely-cited statistic that 90% of all guns recovered at crime scenes and raids on drug cartels in Mexico are from the U.S. The statistic makes it sound like the U.S. is the overwhelming supplier of firearms to Mexican drug cartels. Supposedly, they just come up into some of the border states, buy a bunch of guns, and then drive them back to Mexico.

The problem is that the statistic, when stated this way, is flat out false. Fox News did some digging and found that Mexico's own numbers show that only 17% of such firearms are traced to the U.S.

Because of gun regulations in the U.S., guns manufactured in the U.S. have good markings that make the guns traceable. Mexico submits about 1/3 of the guns they find, the ones that have good markings, to the U.S. to see if they can be traced. About half of these guns are successfully traced, and it is of that subset, the ones that Mexico has pre-screened to be most likely to be from the U.S., that 90% are traced to the U.S. This proves nothing more than that the U.S. originated guns are more easily traced than the other 83% that came from black markets around the world, which is a good thing. It allows for more effective efforts to stem the flow from the U.S.

So you have quite a stark difference between the lie, "90% of the guns recovered by Mexico in drug cartel busts are from the U.S.," and the truth, "only 17% of the guns recovered can be traced back to the U.S."

Be wary when you hear statistics bandied about, even by politicians where you would think, "They wouldn't say that unless there was a strong element of truth to it, right?" You think that they wouldn't dare to say something so blatantly false that could be so easily disproved. But the media, save Fox News and some bloggers, does not do its job in this country, and so the politicians can get away with it, and so they will keep repeated outrageously misleading statistics.

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