Over 66 percent of guns recovered at crime scenes in Mexico that officials asked the U.S. government to trace were sourced to the United States, according to data released Thursday by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
Conservatives have asserted that ATF’s botched Fast and Furious operation — in which U.S. gun dealers were told to sell large numbers of weapons to individuals they believed were “straw purchasers” for Mexican drug cartels — was launched by the Obama administration in an effort to justify gun control measures. But the trace data showed that the number of weapons traced to the U.S. peaked before he even took office.
ATF traced 17,352 weapons back to the U.S. in 2007 and 32,111 in 2008. That number decreased to 21,555 in 2009 and 8,338 in 2010, then rose up to 20,335 in 2011. They traced 4,424 weapons back to U.S. retailers in 2007 and 8,039 in 2008. 5,517 weapons were traced back to U.S. retailers in 2009, 3,112 in 2010 and 6,733 in 2011.
Fast and Furious, which started in late 2009, is likely responsible for at least a portion of the 2011 bump. It’s not clear how many weapons that ATF officials let “walk” during the Bush-era Operation Wide Receiver were included in the trace data
Sen. Chuck Grassley downplayed the significance of ATF’s statics.
“Thorough gun statistics are hard to come by and tricky to interpret,” he said in a statement Thursday night. “The key to this data is that most of these guns can’t be traced to U.S. gun dealers. And, some of those would actually trace back to the United States because of the federal government’s own gunwalking scandal.
“We also have to remember that the only guns Mexico is going to submit for tracing are guns they know are from the United States, which clearly paints an incomplete picture of the firearms found in the Mexico,” Grassley said.
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