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Arms Race - South of the Border

It has long been argued that the violence in and from Mexico was being fed by the illegal smuggling of semi-automatic and automatic weapons from the United States purchased at gun shows and gun shops (most from Texas).

90 percent of the weapons used to commit crimes in Mexico come from the United States.

-- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said it to reporters on a flight to Mexico City.

-- CBS newsman Bob Schieffer referred to it while interviewing President Obama.

-- California Sen. Dianne Feinstein said at a Senate hearing: "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."

-- William Hoover, assistant director for field operations at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, testified in the House of Representatives that "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."

In various publications, pictures of semi and fully automatic weapons have been displayed.

Throughout the months since Calderón mounted his effort to combat the drug cartels, one theme has been repeated. That theme? American guns and ammunition were being smuggled to Mexico from the border states and fueling the violence.

Time and again, it is repeated that American weapons and drug use are the cause the violence in Mexico. However, as with many statistics, the statement that 90% of the guns in Mexico originated in the U.S. is faulty. In fact, according to a clarification published by Fox News, only a Small Fraction of Guns in Mexico Come From U.S. The key distinction is that serial numbers show that only 17% of the weapons can be traced to the United States.

The fact is, only 17 percent of guns found at Mexican crime scenes have been traced to the U.S.

What's true, an ATF spokeswoman told FOXNews.com, in a clarification of the statistic used by her own agency's assistant director, "is that over 90 percent of the traced firearms originate from the U.S."

But a large percentage of the guns recovered in Mexico do not get sent back to the U.S. for tracing, because it is obvious from their markings that they do not come from the U.S.

"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," Matt Allen, special agent of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), told FOX News.

The problem with this argument has been periodic publication of pictures displaying some of the weapons taken in various raids. Knowledgeable observers commented then and now that many of the weapons such as M26A2 fragmentation grenades, M16, U.S. military-issued ammunition -- are not even sold in gun shows or gun shops. So from whence have they been purchased?

Now according to a U.S. Department of State document, in 2009, the United States sold the Mexican government $177 million worth of arms, of which $20 million was used for semi- and fully automatic weapons.

After looking at a warehouse full of high-powered weapons, allegedly stolen by a corrupt Mexican federal police officer, the informant said it was obvious to him that such weapons did not come from the "mom and pop" gun stores identified by the administration.

Aside from the fact that corruption in the Mexican police and military is no secret, additionally, and not surprisingly, it is also reported that "rogue elements" of the Guatemalan military have been selling military grade weapons to the cartels.

So, perhaps it is time for the Mexican government to look to itself to figure out how automatic weapons are finding their way to the cartels. And at the same time, while there is no question that some weapons are being purchased at gun shows and in gun shops in the U.S., the Administration should more closely examine its own sales of weapons to the Mexican government before pointing fingers at Texas gun shops.

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