From The Economist magazine
Apr 23rd 2009
Ammunition in the debate
SIR – Your article on the drug wars in Mexico claimed that half the guns seized by the Mexican police were “assault weapons” and that “nearly all” of those were bought in the United States (“Taking on the narcos, and their American guns”, April 4th). However, Mexico doesn’t trace all guns, and those traced are not picked at random. When Mexico seizes guns from criminals it sends to the United States those guns that it identifies as having come from the United States. This isn’t a hard task as such guns are marked with a serial number and “Made in the USA”. Only 17% of all guns were actually traced back to the United States.
Mexico is a virtual arms-bazaar, with AK47s from China, shoulder-fired rockets from Soviet-block manufacturers, and fragmentation grenades from South Korea. These weapons aren’t sold in the United States. Americans can buy civilian versions of AK47s only—semi-automatic rifles that operate like deer-hunting rifles, not the guns used by armies around the world. Mexican drug gangs don’t want the American “assault weapons” that “look like” military weapons; they want guns that are military weapons.
Senior research scientist
University of Maryland
College Park, Maryland
Labels: assaultweaponsban, Mexico90claim