ATF Released Cherry-Picked Data on US Guns Flowing to Mexico? Say It Isn’t So.

By the time Congress becomes aware of something I think we can pretty much be sure it’s getting to be common knowledge.

June 16, 2011

Via Electronic Transmission
Kenneth Melson
Acting Director
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, & Explosives
U.S. Department of Justice
99 New York Avenue, NE
Washington, DC 20226

Dear Acting Director Melson:

I write today in response to a June 10, 2011, article in The Wall Street Journal titled, “Mexican Guns Tied to U.S.”, which cites a letter you sent to Senator Diane Feinstein, the Chairman of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control (“Caucus”). As the Co-Chairman of the Caucus, and Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary (“Committee”), I have been investigating serious allegations raised by whistleblowers within the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) that agents knowingly allowed weapons to be sold to straw purchasers who then transferred those weapons to Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations (“DTOs”). These allegations were the subject of two Congressional hearings this week and the timing of the release of this information raises questions about why the ATF would choose to release this information publicly now. Further, after reviewing the data presented in the article, I have questions about why ATF provided some select information, but not a more detailed analysis that would help Congress, and the American people, better understand the causes and sources of illegal firearms in Mexico.

Federal law prohibits the ATF from releasing firearm trace data or multiple handgun sales reports, but it does not prohibit the release of aggregate statistical data on illegal gun trafficking. However, I am concerned that the selective release of certain statistical data without further clarification and categorization may inaccurately reflect the scope and source of the problem of firearms in Mexico and the DTO violence. For example, the article states that ATF traced firearms in Mexico that were submitted for tracing by the Government of Mexico (“GOM”) 21,313 firearms in 2009 and 7,971 firearms in 2010. The article further adds that of the firearms traced, 14,213 in 2009 were manufactured in the U.S. or imported to the U.S. from other countries. The article adds that 6,291 firearms in 2010 were either manufactured in the U.S. or imported from other countries. Taken together, these numbers provided the basis for the general estimate that 70% of firearms provided to the ATF from the GOM were traced back to the U.S.

The implication the article makes is that these firearms must come directly from U.S. manufacturers or U.S. Federal Firearms Licensees (“FFLs”) selling guns to DTO members who smuggle the guns over the Southwest border. Unfortunately, this information paints a grossly inaccurate picture of the situation.

See the rest of the letter here. Suffice to say, Senator Grassley is not impressed and would like some answers.

H/T to Dutchman6

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