Days before Mexico’s President Felipe Calderon arrogantly addressed a joint session of Congress on how we ought to run this country, members of the National Rifle Association gathered in Charlotte, N.C., to celebrate their victories in Congress and the courts, discuss their passion for guns, hunting, the shooting sports and plan for the future.
The largest turnout for an NRA Annual Meeting since the association’s founding in 1871, the more than 72,000 members in attendance served as a boisterous reminder to politicians of both parties that the nation’s gun owners remain a potent political force that no one should take lightly. Indeed, recent polls give the NRA a higher favorability rating than that accorded the Congress, the president or either of our two major political parties, and while the NRA claims “only” 4 million members, an additional 30 million Americans tell pollsters they consider themselves members and look to the NRA for leadership.
Democratic politicians, however, have been reluctant to renew the political gun-control wars of the ’90s, which President Clinton claimed cost his party’s candidate, Al GoreAl GoreTrump's EPA pick will make Obama regret his environmental overreach Trump’s popularity spikes, but lags behind past presidents Overnight Energy: Trump taps EPA foe to head agency | Energy reform bill officially dead MORE, the presidency in 2000. Since then, Democratic candidates have donned hunting gear and taken to the field; some 65 Democratic House members even went so far as to warn President Obama that he would not have their support if his administration attempts to mess with the Second Amendment.
Still, many within the Obama administration and Congress would love to find a crisis they might exploit to renew their assault on the Second Amendment, and more than a few of them think that crisis might be the drug wars in Mexico. U.S. and Mexican officials have been claiming that the violence in Mexico can be traced to the availability of guns in the United States, contending that thousands or hundreds of thousands of weapons purchased at “thousands of gun shops” along the Mexican-U.S. border are being used by Mexican drug cartels in their war against the Mexican government.
Figures can lie when used by politicians. Mr. Calderon repeated a several-year-old contention that something like 80 percent of the arms used by Mexican drug warriors have been traced to the United States. The claim was a lie when his government first asserted it, and repeating it before our Congress doesn’t make it true. This figure represents the percentage of those guns (a few thousand) submitted by Mexican authorities for tracing here. As Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms officials told Congress when the numbers were first bandied about, Mexico sends a small percentage of the guns confiscated there to the U.S. for tracing. These are guns they believe came from the U.S., but represent a very small percentage of the guns being used by the cartels in Mexico. In addition, many of them are decades old and none of them are the cartels’ weapons of choice.
In fact, Mexico’s cartels get their guns on the international market and most of what they buy aren’t the semiautomatic sporting arms they could get here, but fully automatic military weapons, grenades, rocket launchers and the like from China, Israel, Korea and Russia. According to the Los Angeles Times, most of this weaponry flows into Mexico over that nation’s southern border with Guatemala, not over her northern border with the U.S.
It was nevertheless quite a sight last week to witness the spectacle of the president of a failed state appearing before our Congress to pervert the truth in order to blame the United States for his country’s troubles. The Democrats who gave him a standing ovation don’t seem to get it, but they can rest assured that the folks who gathered in Charlotte do.
Keene is chairman of the American Conservative Union and a managing associate with the Carmen Group, a Washington-based governmental consulting firm.