According to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Mexico’s raging drug war is largely the fault of the United States. As she tells it, illegal drugs have been flowing from Mexico into the U.S. to feed “our insatiable demand” for those substances. In exchange, American weapons—including a variety of military assault-type munitions—have been streaming south into Mexico. “Our [America’s] inability to prevent weapons from being illegally smuggled across the border to arm these criminals causes the deaths of police, of soldiers and civilians,” Clinton said last week. On Friday she elaborated:
“The guns that are sold in the United States, which are illegal in Mexico, get smuggled over our border and arm these terrible drug-dealing criminals so that they can outgun these poor police officers along the border and elsewhere in Mexico. So we've got to help out here. We can't stand by and say, Well, you know, you guys just do the best you can, when we, unfortunately, are the market for drugs, when a lot of the money is laundered in the United States back into the hands of the drug kingpins, and when the weapons have come from our country. So I think recognizing the co-responsibility is just stating the obvious.”
There’s only one problem with Clinton’s version of the story: it’s nonsense.
How many American guns are in fact headed south to the Mexican cartels? If prominent Democrats are to be believed, nearly all of them. Thus, according to Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, “70% of the weapons in the hands of the drug cartels are coming from the U.S.” Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, who contends that restricting gun availability in the U.S. would help prevent violence in Mexico, cites an even higher figure of 90%. (Notably, Feinstein got a concealed carry permit for herself and once vowed to defend herself from a terror group called the New World Liberation Front by stating that if its members tried to harm her, she “was going to take them with me.”) Not to be outdone, Nita Lowey, the far-Left congresswoman from New York, states that fully 97% of all weapons find their way to Mexico via the U.S. Those are indeed staggering numbers. But there is reason to doubt their accuracy.
William Hoover, assistant director of field operations at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, argues that no such volume of American-made weapons are headed south. Says Hoover, “The investigations we have, that we see, for firearms flowing across the border don’t show us individuals taking thousands of guns a day or at a time flowing into Mexico.” His claim is buttressed by the fact that Mexican authorities have refused to provide U.S. law-enforcement officials with the serial numbers of weapons confiscated from drug cartel members—a likely indicator that the weapons were obtained not from American gun shops but rather from illegitimate sources elsewhere.
An important Fox News story further discredits the wild claims of people like Napolitano, Feinstein, and Lowey. According to this report, more than two-thirds of the guns recovered at Mexican crime scenes are never even sent to the U.S. for tracing, because their markings make it obvious that they came from somewhere else. Moreover, a large number of the recovered weapons lack serial numbers entirely and thus cannot be traced to any location. In the final analysis, we find that a mere 17 percent of all the guns in question can actually be traced to America.
And what of Mexico’s role in the gun violence that occurs within its borders? Before Felipe Calderon became president and called on the military to crack down on drug traffickers, the Mexican government’s attempts at eradicating the drug trade were laughable. In 1997, for example, the Bill Clinton administration announced that it had made the Mexican government a “full ally” in the war on drugs. President Clinton enlisted the assistance of Mexican General Jesus Gutierrez Rebollo, who at the time was the head of the Mexican National Institute to Combat Drugs. Rebollo was invited to secret meetings at the White House and participated in high-level conferences with the CIA and the Drug Enforcement Agency. He was fêted as a “man of absolute unquestioned character.”
Unfortunately, the honeymoon was short-lived, as Rebollo was thereafter arrested for taking bribes from one of the largest Mexican drug cartels. Despite Calderon’s efforts to combat such corruption, it remains a hallmark of the Mexican government—from the low-level law-enforcement officer who moonlights as a hit man for the drug cartels, right up to highly placed politicians on the cartel’s payroll. This is no secret. Our law-enforcement knows it. The average Mexican citizen knows it, too.
Here’s another example. Last week, a rogue soldier/drug-gang leader named Octavio Almanza Moreles killed retired Gen. Mauro Enrique Tello Quiñones and 10 other military men. Quiñones had recently been hired by the Cancun city government to help weed out corruption and revamp the local police force. When Almanza and several others were arrested, the operation netted 23 assault rifles, 20 handguns, 23 grenades, two grenade launchers, and a rocket launcher, among many other items.
It is likely that little, if any, of that arsenal originated in the United States. Assault rifles, grenades, grenade launchers, etc. are not available in American gun shops for purchase by the general public. The Mexican drug cartels, with all of their money and sophistication, would be disinclined to risk smuggling small arms from the U.S., especially when they can easily purchase far more potent weaponry on the black market, or from sundry countries around the world (such as Venezuela or Iran), or from Hezbollah-type terror groups wishing to destabilize North America. For that matter, they can easily “procure” their weapons from less-than-savory elements within the Mexican military—weapons that, in all likelihood, did originally come from the U.S., but through legal channels.
Moreover, the drug cartels can afford to transport their purchased weaponry into Mexico from overseas using their own fleet of aircraft, ships, and submarines, which can land unimpeded on the cartels’ own remote airfields or docks. The notion that all of this military-type weaponry is somehow finding its way into Mexico via the southern United States is simply not logical.
Hillary Clinton surely comprehends this, and her statements need to be understood in context. She is a key player in a presidential administration that is passionately opposed to gun rights. The President himself is quietly launching an assault on the Second Amendment. This is the same President who formerly served on the board of the anti-gun Joyce Foundation; who supported a ban on the manufacture, sale and possession of handguns; who proposed a 500-percent increase in the excise taxes on firearms and ammunition to discourage the purchase of those items; who voted in support of legislation that would have banned privately owned hunting shotguns and target rifles in Illinois (where he was a state senator); who voted, in 2004, against legislation intended to protect homeowners from prosecution in cases where they used a firearm to thwart a home invasion; and who appointed Attorney General Eric Holder, who helped craft the “Federal Assault Weapons Ban” of 1994 which banned the sale of numerous models of semi-automatic firearms for ten years. (Holder, it should be noted, now seeks to reinstitute that ban.)
The Obama administration has turned the Mexican government’s gun-violence problem into a “blame-America-first” crisis in order to advance a gun-control campaign that will be spearheaded by the likes of Eric Holder and Hillary Clinton. The gun-control lobby fully understands this and consequently has lauded Obama’s quest to prevent civilians from obtaining so-called “assault weapons” (which, as noted above, are often nothing more than semi-automatic shotguns). American citizens at large also understand this instinctively, as evidenced by the frenetic pace at which they have been purchasing guns and ammunition ever since Obama was elected President last November.
When Hillary Clinton laments that America’s “incapacity” to limit gun access has “unfair[ly]” led people to hold “the Mexican government and people responsible” for the violence of its drug cartels, she is merely laying the groundwork for further encroachment on Americans’ right to bear arms. Her modus operandi is to depict the U.S. as the cause of gun violence in Mexico, and to characterize her mission as a pure-hearted quest to save innocent lives.
But in reality, the Clinton-Obama approach will have a number of undesirable consequences. It will hurt the United States by imposing ever-stricter gun-control laws, thereby making it increasingly difficult for law-abiding Americans to protect themselves. It will be ineffective in curbing the violence of the Mexican drug cartels, who clearly can obtain the guns they desire from a host of sources. And, ultimately, it will hurt Mexico by failing to pressure the Mexican government to acknowledge the real cause of its problems and to institute meaningful reform.
Finally, there is the absurdity of Hillary’s recent assertion that it is “not right” to hold the Mexican government accountable for the security of Mexico. Mexico is not Lebanon; it isn’t supposed to have roaming paramilitary groups terrorizing people within its borders. If it is unable to gain control over such groups, it is by definition a failing state, however many weapons may enter the country by way of the U.S.