Weapons Debate is Not Only About Saving American Lives

A Mexican checkpoint with heavily armed troops. The fault of the U.S. gun policy.

As the United States government gradually takes its action on the debate over weapons on the streets, another government and country of people are watching closely as to how the laws will change.  The people of Mexico have called for changes to American laws for many years now and have seen the effects firsthand of how the ability to buy such dangerous weapons with ease can turn cities and towns into war zones.

Mexican interest continues now as the debate seems to be drawing closer to some real action on assault rifles and magazine capacities.  Some comments from the Mexican Ambassador are worth noting:

“The Second Amendment … is not, was never and should not be designed to arm foreign criminal groups,” Mexican Ambassador Eduardo Medina Mora told reporters last week.

The end of the (Assault Weapons) ban in 2004 impacted Mexico, he said.

“There is certainly a statistical correlation between the end of this measure and the increase in the firepower of foreign criminal groups, particular those that operate out of our country,” he said.

If we look at the timing of certain events, there definitely seems to be a lot of truth to his statements.  The Assault Weapons Ban expired in late 2004 and two years later former President Calderon began sending Mexican Army troops into the areas where the drug cartels had become too heavily armed for regular police.  Over 50,000 casualties later, the Mexican people are still looking to the United States for changes in weapons policy.

Some may argue the problem is/was the ATF’s Fast and Furious policy allowing guns to walk across the border but I’ve addressed the insanity of this position previously and will quote myself here:

If there wasn’t a problem to begin with, extremely awful policy solutions like Fast and Furious would not have been conjured, much less implemented…Let’s look at what we know.  Fast and Furious allowed roughly 2,000 weapons to cross the border.  However, the Mexican authorities have seized nearly 70,000 weapons traced back to the United States around the same time period.  How many they haven’t seized and are still in circulation is probably anyone’s guess but it’s safe to assume it’s larger than the number captured.  Focusing only on Fast and Furious is the equivalent of a watching a pack of hungry lions running at you in the wild and being more concerned about a mosquito that just landed on your arm.

For the safety of everyone, let’s hope they get changes that matter and legislation that helps damage the weapons caches of the many Mexican drug cartels who arm themselves by abusing the lax gun laws of the United States.

Highlights of Fortune’s Fast and Furious Detailed Report

Fortune Magazine published its very in-depth report on the Fast and Furious scandal and the details put a very different complexion on the program and how it has been played out in the media.  The article is long and deserves the time of anyone interested in the debate but there are some noteworthy things that certainly should be brought to the attention of all.

The first factor that should be addressed about this debate is the political party attacking the Obama administration at the moment over this program is the same party that would be attacking the administration if they had taken a different strategy on guns and began calling for stricter laws or taking guns away from any law-abiding citizen.  This is, in reality, one of the only other ways to attack this problem and if that path had been chosen, the NRA would have posited a war had begun on guns and everyone was going to lose their weapons no matter who they were.  The author sums this point up nicely:

But the ultimate irony is this: Republicans who support the National Rifle Association and its attempts to weaken gun laws are lambasting ATF agents for not seizing enough weapons—ones that, in this case, prosecutors deemed to be legal.

So a choice was made considering the environment the ATF had to deal with, part of which is, in Arizona:

Customers can legally buy as many weapons as they want in Arizona as long as they’re 18 or older and pass a criminal background check. There are no waiting periods and no need for permits, and buyers are allowed to resell the guns.

So first off, anyone can buy as many weapons as they have the funds for and then legally resell them with no repercussions.  Clearly, if you are law enforcement trying to stop guns from getting into the hands of the drug cartels of Mexico, this is a colossal problem.  And asking the federal government, with lawmakers so loyal to the NRA and ardent fighters for no restrictions on weapons purchases, to change the law is out of the question.

Another important point is the misconception of how big this program was and how the people at the top of the government should have known better.  We love to believe every one of these types of decisions could be tracked straight back to a certain politician’s signature or comments but clearly that is not the situation here.  The reality of the operation in Arizona:

They were seven agents pursuing more than a dozen cases, of which Fast and Furious was just one.

The key problem pointed out in this article was not the ATF or necessarily their tactics but the wall these agents hit when they tried to go up the food chain of law enforcement to prosecute.  They had plenty of evidence but were blocked because of the reaction attorney’s had toward the lax gun laws in Arizona.

“[P]urchasing multiple long guns in Arizona is lawful,” Patrick Cunningham, the U.S. Attorney’s then–criminal chief in Arizona would later write. “Transferring them to another is lawful and even sale or barter of the guns to another is lawful unless the United States can prove by clear and convincing evidence that the firearm is intended to be used to commit a crime.”

Good luck with that.  I’m pretty sure simply stating “I didn’t know what the guy I sold the guns to was going to do with them” will get anyone off from any charges.  Any gun store owner can make the same claim.  I typically stay away from using single examples to draw a picture of a problem or solution but one given in this article is worth noting to show how tough it was for the ATF to go about prosecuting this gun trade:

After examining one suspect’s garbage, agents learned he was on food stamps yet had plunked down more than $300,000 for 476 firearms in six months. Voth asked if the ATF could arrest him for fraudulently accepting public assistance when he was spending such huge sums. Prosecutor Hurley said no.

The picture that the media has painted surrounding the Fast and Furious scandal is certainly not the reality of the situation.  There are some aspects of this debate we will just have to accept.  Was the result of this program awful?  Certainly.  Was it the fault of the ATF for not prosecuting the people they were tracking?  Doesn’t appear to be true.  Is this program and the problems associated with it more an effect of little to no gun laws and prosecutors unwilling to bring those cases because of the repercussions?  Absolutely.

More information regarding this situation will slowly make its way out with time but one thing is for sure now: this scandal has been much more political than what it seems and has been driven against a Democratic administration by an alleged “liberal” media.  I fail to see why such a friendly media would do that to a supposed friend and, of course, this politically driven scandal over Fast and Furious ignores the bigger story of this whole situation.

The Real Scandal of Fast and Furious – The Atlantic

Andrew Cohen – The Real Scandal of Fast and Furious – The Atlantic.

Really good article on the real problem of guns making their way into the hands of the Mexican drug cartels and one line of it speaks volumes:

House Republicans have resorted to partisan finger-pointing over 3 percent of the guns crossing the border — and ignored the other 97 percent.

Let’s face reality here.  If so many weapons were not being smuggled out of the United States so easily because of our nearly non-existent gun laws, Fast and Furious would have never existed as a program in the first place.  There would have been no reason to even think of ways to reduce the power of the drug cartels if we did not arm them so heavily through lack of regulation and proper checking of suspicious sales.

And if you watch the Colbert clip included in the article and here, you’ll see an almost laughable claim by the right.  Some pundits allege Fast and Furious is just an excuse by the left to regulate guns.  Colbert debunks that in his own hilarious way while also mentioning the little recognized fact the program actually started under a previous administration just under a different name.  But let’s add two important points to address the ridiculousness of this claim.

One is the simple fact of cause and effect I already mentioned.  If there wasn’t a problem to begin with, extremely awful policy solutions like Fast and Furious would not have been conjured, much less implemented.  But I do have to admit trying to spin this into some type of conspiracy theory is a great way to avoid the real problem.

The second point is the obvious scale of the problem.  Let’s look at what we know.  Fast and Furious allowed roughly 2,000 weapons to cross the border.  However, the Mexican authorities have seized nearly 70,000 weapons traced back to the United States around the same time period.  How many they haven’t seized and are still in circulation is probably anyone’s guess but it’s safe to assume it’s larger than the number captured.  Focusing only on Fast and Furious is the equivalent of a watching a pack of hungry lions running at you in the wild and being more concerned about a mosquito that just landed on your arm.

But then again it’s an election year and we do have our priorities.

Worthy Criticism of Second Amendment by Mexican Official

Christiane Amanpour’s recent video report on the violence in Mexico because of the drug war includes a calm and rational interview with Mexican Ambassador to the U.S., Arturo Sarukhan.  At the 5:25 mark in the video, Sarukhan makes a reasoned assessment of the controversial 2nd Amendment in the U.S. Constitution and its intention by stating:

Every time there’s a gunfight at the state and local level, we have to call in our 7th Calvary, the armed forces, because they are being simply overpowered by the firepower that these thugs are wielding.  What I am convinced of is that the Founding Fathers did not draft the 2nd Amendment to: A) allow international organized crime to illicitly buy weapons in the United States, B) to cross them over international borders, and C) to allow individuals who should not be buying weapons in the first place to acquire those weapons.

His concerns are valid and the reality that these things are happening is indisputable at this point.  We are well aware of the 70,000 guns seized by Mexican law enforcement the ATF traced back to U.S. sellers so one fact needs to accepted: our ridiculously lax gun laws have created a war zone in Mexico.  The level of brutality has increased over time and some of the most gruesome acts make headlines in the U.S., such as the 49 mutilated and decapitated bodies found a couple of weeks ago or the 23 people murdered roughly a week prior to that.  If this is what it takes to make the headlines in the U.S., imagine how much doesn’t make it.

The fact there is little compromise in the debate on this issue is really an impressive feat by the gun lobby.  They have been so successful at their propaganda campaign that even the slightest restriction on firearms is seen as an extreme act.  Case in point, a fact from one of the articles linked above:

U.S. gun store owners in southwestern border states sued to overturn an Obama administration requirement that they report to the ATF when customers buy multiple high-powered rifles within a five-day period. A federal court upheld the requirement.

Why is this unreasonable?  Remember, this isn’t stopping the purchase of the military weapon.  It’s just trying to alert officials to potential gun smugglers yet policies like these are portrayed as if the government is bringing about the apocalypse.

Our nearly non-existent gun laws have been a significant factor in creating a war zone in Mexico and their government officials are appalled by the fact over 50,000 of their people have died in six years because of it.  The sad part is the people contributing to the sale of these military weapons are too busy making money to care.