Thursday, April 2, 2009

The 90% Solution: American Guns, Mexican Raids, and Common Sense

By now, my guess is that "everybody knows" that 90% of guns in Mexico come from America: You know what those Americans are like!

Everybody's saying it!
  • Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
  • CBS newsman Bob Schieffer
  • California Senator Dianne Feinstein
    • " 'It is unacceptable to have 90 percent of the guns that are picked up in Mexico and used to shoot judges, police officers and mayors ... come from the United States. " (FOXNews)
  • Assistant director for field operations at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives William Hoover
    • "...there is more than enough evidence to indicate that over 90 percent of the firearms that have either been recovered in, or interdicted in transport to Mexico, originated from various sources within the United States. " (FOXNews)
Just one problem with what 'everbody knows.' In this case, it's not true.

"90%" Does show up in ATF statistics. No question about that.

A clarification of the ATF's assistant director " 'is that over 90 percent of the traced firearms originate from the U.S.' "

Well! That's 90%!

Just one thing: a big percentage of guns recovered in Mexico don't come over the border to America for tracing. There's no point: their markings make it obvious that the didn't come from the United States.

If you believe that FOX News is part of the vast right-wing conspiracy, and always lies: you're probably not reading now.

The rest of us aren't likely to read it, either: unless traditional news services decide to research their stories a little deeper than is their wont. In cases like this.

Here's what special agent of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Matt Allen said: " '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.'..." (FOXNews)

No (Intentional) Deception Here, I Think

I do not believe that Clinton, Schieffer, Feinstein, and Hoover said something that they do not believe to be true. In fact, a horrifying 90% of weapons whose origins can be traced back to America can be proved to have come from America.

So, they say, '90% of weapons [redacted] confiscated in Mexico come from America.'

The [redacted] part is a point which I think they may not even be aware of: 'whose origins are obviously in America.'

That 90% statistic fits very well with the assumption that if America would stop being a big meanie, most of the world's problems would go away. Never mind that "...only 17 percent of guns found at Mexican crime scenes have been traced to the U.S.'..." (FOX News).

This sort of filtering isn't limited to America's leadership. During Australia's Victoria fires, quite a few people sincerely believed that the Muslims, or Islamic terrorists, had set the fires. One particularly enthusiastic defender of Islam (his view of the matter, not mine) had even called for a 'forest jihad.' Turns out, some sincerely non-Muslim nut case set at least most of the fires.

But I think some of the people who were convinced that the Muslims did it will never believe otherwise.

Those Four People Are Stupid, Right?

Wrong. America is still, to a great extent, a meritocracy: You get a job, or a position, because you're at least competent for the post. And, generally, I don't think that people rise to the top of their field unless they're very competent at what they do.

Those are four very smart people. They're also human, just like everyone else. And part of human nature is to filter out what we don't want to hear. If one is part of a group that dominates the culture, that person may never become aware of the filtering: and be genuinely intelligent.

America is a Republic with Strong Democratic Roots - Citizens Have to be Knowledgeable

Even - or especially - when the official leadership isn't.

I think that many American leaders in government, information media, and education, have at least a mild form of hoplophobia. Don't bother looking that up. Unless you've got an extremely extensive or specialized home library, or pretty good research skills, you won't find that word in your reference books. Researching for another post, I ran across "Contemporary Diagnosis And Management of Anxiety Disorders" (Ninan and Dunlop (2006)). This book defined hoplophobia as an irrational fear of weapons. At least, that's what I found in late 2007. The book may have been (corrected?) by now. These things happen occasionally.

Since, in my view, hoplophobia is endemic to American culture - and most likely to Western culture as a whole - most of the 'best and brightest' would see nothing odd about a fear of weapons that goes beyond reasonable caution.

I think that this '90%' SNAFU has some of its roots in hoplophibia. And, since some of the people involved are in a position to affect American foreign policy, I think it's well to know what the facts are - even if the leaders don't.

It comes down to the old cliche - 'write your congressman/woman/person/whatever.'

News and views: Vaguely related posts:


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Brian H. Gill said...

clark / Joannah,

Thanks, but this comment shows up rather often, and registers as spam.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.