The Renaissance Man (unixronin) wrote in guns,
The Renaissance Man
unixronin
guns

Q:  How do you know when your news media is blowing smoke up your ass?

(Majorly revised on new information via blorky)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Barack Obama, reported by CNN:

MEXICO CITY, Mexico (CNN) -- Reviving a ban on assault weapons and more strictly enforcing existing gun laws could help tamp down drug violence that has run rampant on the U.S.-Mexican border, President Obama said Thursday.

Speaking alongside Mexican President Felipe Calderón, Obama said he has “not backed off at all” on a campaign pledge to try to restore the ban.  It was instituted under President Clinton and allowed to lapse by President George W. Bush.

“I continue to believe that we can respect and honor the Second Amendment right in our Constitution -- the rights of sportsmen and hunters and homeowners that want to keep their families safe -- to lawfully bear arms, while dealing with assault weapons that, as we know here in Mexico, are used to fuel violence,” Obama said.


No, those dates are not typos.  These are two diametrically opposite spins from two different news organizations, on the same day, about the same event.

...A:  Their lips move.

Thanks to blorky, I now have the actual transcript from the press conference.  Here’s the relevant part:

Q  Thank you, Mr. President.  Thank you, Mr. President, as well.

President Obama, as a candidate for your office, you said that you wanted to see the assault ban weapon -- the ban on assault weapons reinstated.  Your Attorney General has spoken in favor of this. Mexican officials have also spoken in favor of it.  But we haven’t heard you say that since you took office.  Do you plan to keep your promise?  And if not, how do you explain that to the American people?

And, President Calderón -- I’m sorry, if I may -- would you like to see this ban reinstated?  And have you raised that today with President Obama?  Thank you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, first of all, we did discuss this extensively in our meetings.  I have not backed off at all from my belief that the gun -- the assault weapons ban made sense.  And I continue to believe that we can respect and honor the Second Amendment rights in our Constitution, the rights of sportsmen and hunters and homeowners who want to keep their families safe to lawfully bear arms, while dealing with assault weapons that, as we now know, here in Mexico, are helping to fuel extraordinary violence -- violence in our own country, as well.

Now, having said that, I think none of us are under any illusion that reinstating that ban would be easy.  And so, what we’ve focused on is how we can improve our enforcement of existing laws, because even under current law, trafficking illegal firearms, sending them across a border, is illegal.  That’s something that we can stop.

And so our focus is to work with Secretary Napolitano, Attorney General Holder, our entire Homeland Security team, ATF, border security, everybody who is involved in this, to coordinate with our counterparts in Mexico to significantly ramp up our enforcement of existing laws.  And in fact, I’ve asked Eric Holder to do a complete review of how our enforcement operations are currently working and make sure that we’re cutting down on the loopholes that are resulting in some of these drug trafficking problems.

The last point I would make is that there are going to be some opportunities where I think we can build some strong consensus.  I’ll give you one example, and that is the issue of gun tracing.  The tracing of bullets and ballistics and gun information that have been used in major crimes -- that’s information that we are still not giving to law enforcement, as a consequence of provisions that have been blocked in the United States Congress, and those are the areas where I think that we can make some significant progress early.

That doesn’t mean that we’re steering away from the issue of the assault guns ban, but it does mean that we want to act with urgency, promptly, now.  And I think we can make significant progress.

OK, let’s take a look at that, point by point.  And let’s, just for the moment, set aside any in-depth discussion about the ... complete absurdity of another country’s President having any say in how the US Constitution is interpreted.

First of all:

I have not backed off at all from my belief that the gun -- the assault weapons ban made sense.  And I continue to believe that we can respect and honor the Second Amendment rights in our Constitution, the rights of sportsmen and hunters and homeowners who want to keep their families safe to lawfully bear arms [...]

So this is the same rhetoric he’s been saying all along.  He “believes in the Second Amendment” ... and in his authority to define what it actually means and allows.  But his “belief in the Second Amendment” doesn’t stop him from thinking he should be able to ban any gun he doesn’t like, starting with the “ugly black guns”.  Here’s where CNN got their take on the AW-ban reinstatement issue.

Now, having said that, I think none of us are under any illusion that reinstating that ban would be easy.

And here’s where MSNBC got their spin on it.  This is emphatically not an admission that it’s politically impossible or even impractical; just that he knows he’ll have an uphill fight to do it.

And so, what we’ve focused on is how we can improve our enforcement of existing laws, because even under current law, trafficking illegal firearms, sending them across a border, is illegal.  That’s something that we can stop.

And this is actually a sane, sensible statement.  It echoes what many of us have been saying for literally decades now — there are already sufficient laws on the books, if we enforce the ones we’ve already got.

The next point of any actual content is here:

The last point I would make is that there are going to be some opportunities where I think we can build some strong consensus.  I’ll give you one example, and that is the issue of gun tracing.  The tracing of bullets and ballistics and gun information that have been used in major crimes -- that’s information that we are still not giving to law enforcement, as a consequence of provisions that have been blocked in the United States Congress, and those are the areas where I think that we can make some significant progress early.

It’s pretty clear here, if you’re familiar with the issues in question, that this is apparently referring to two things — the Tiahrt Amendment, and ballistic fingerprinting.  Let’s look at those a moment separately.

First, the Tiahrt Amendment.  The Obama/Brady/Schumer/Feinstein/VPC/Bloomberg/etc position is that the Tiahrt Amendment prevents law enforcement from getting access to BATFE firearm trace information.  And this, bluntly, is a bald-faced lie.  Existing law, including Tiahrt, allows full access to firearm trace information to any law enforcement agency conducting any investigation for which it is relevant.  If you have a legitimate need for the information, you can get it.

What the Tiahrt Amendment prohibits is non-law-enforcement organizations or individuals getting access to trace data in order to trawl it and use it for purposes for which it wasn’t ever intended and for which it isn’t meaningful.  And that’s the part Feinstein, Bloomberg, Schumer, the Violence Policy Center and their ilk hate — because that’s what they want to be able to do.  It’s irrelevant to them whether the data actually means anything when used as they want to use it.  For example, they take it as a given that the existence of BATFE trace data on a firearm means that firearm has been used in a gun crime.  But that’s not so.  Just as a single example — how do you think police find the legal owners of stolen weapons?  ...Exactly.  They request a BATFE trace.  Police bust a fence and find 20 or 30 guns in his stash?  How did he get them?  Trace time, baby.

The other part of this, the reference to “tracing of bullets and ballistics”, is referring to ballistic fingerprinting.  (How do we know the Tiahrt Amendment issue is separate from this?  Simple:  There is no nationwide ballistic fingerprinting bill that is being “blocked in the Unites States Congress”.)  This is the idea that whenever a gun is sold, law enforcement keeps a sample bullet fired from it, and if it’s ever used to commit a crime, the firearm can be identified from recovered bullet fragments, using the distinctive scratches and wear marks left on the bullet by the gun barrel.

Problem with this is, it’s bullshit.  Even if you do nothing to deliberately alter it, the marks left by any barrel change with use as the barrel wears. Depending on the firearm, it may be as little as a few hundred rounds before any distinctive marks have completely changed.  You’re in a hurry?  You want to change the ballistic fingerprint of your gun right now?  Smear one twenty-round box of ammunition with valve lapping compound or any similar fine, hard abrasive paste and fire them.  Bingo, you have just erased your gun’s “ballistic fingerprint” and replaced it with a totally different one.

The state of Maryland has a ballistic fingerprinting program.  The Maryland State Police requested that the state abandon it a couple of years back, because after spending over $2.5 million on it, it had not aided in solving or obtaining a conviction in a single crime in four years. “There have been no crime investigations that have been enhanced or expedited through the use of MD-IBIS,” the Maryland State Police report said.  (Subsequently, they did actually get one conviction from a ballistic match, later that year.  One conviction ... in the eight years the program has been in operation since 2001.  As John Lott points out, how many additional crimes could have been solved or prevented during that time by the extra police officers that money could have been paying for?)

That doesn’t mean that we’re steering away from the issue of the assault guns ban, but it does mean that we want to act with urgency, promptly, now.  And I think we can make significant progress.

This sounds to me like “We can have our cake AND eat it.”

But wait!  Isn’t this supposed to be all about how US guns are destroying Mexico?  Baby blood running in the streets?  Hordes of savage assault weapons running wild, raping, pillaging and plundering, and setting fire to cats?

Look at this little admission from Mexico’s President Calderón, buried further down:

Of course I understand that the spectacular nature of some of these operations has really attracted worldwide attention.  But with a very difficult crime rate that we had last year, despite them, crime in Mexico was 10.7 deaths because of crime for every 100,000 inhabitants.  It is less than what it is in Guatemala, El Salvador, Colombia, Venezuela, or Brazil in Latin America, and it is also a lower number than the crime rates of many U.S. cities.

Wait, wait ... all our politicians have been telling us that Mexico is tottering on the edge of collapse because of “assault weapons” being smuggled across the border from the US, apparently by the truckload if you believe the hype.  But here’s President Calderón admitting Mexico’s murder rate is lower than Brazil’s, Guatelama’s ... oh, and he forgot to mention Surinam, Panama, Haiti, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Mongolia, Swaziland, Russia, Ecuador, Puerto Rico, Kazakhstan, the Dominican Republic, Trinidad and Tobago, Belize, Liberia, Somalia, South Africa, Angola, Jamaica, Sierra Leone, or Honduras.  In fact, the terrible crisis in Mexico we’re talking about here turns out to be that Mexico has the second LOWEST murder rate in Central America.  Throughout the whole of Central America, only Costa Rica has a lower murder rate.  For that matter, most of the nations in the northern half of the South American continent have higher murder rates than Mexico’s.  Only Bolivia, Peru, Chile, Guyana, French Guiana and Argentina (and the barely-inhabited flyspeck that is Tierra del Fuego) in the whole of South America have lower murder rates than Mexico’s.

Crisis?  What crisis?  Methinks the gentleman doth protest too loudly.

“Never let a good crisis go to waste,” saith the White House.  And when you don’t have a suitable crisis ... what the heck, manufacture one.


Frankly, the best thing to do about drug-related crime in Mexico is start treating Mexico as the failing state that it appears by a predominance of the evidence to be, secure the US-Mexican border accordingly, and tell the Mexican government to source its armaments elsewhere.  There’s good evidence that one of the largest single sources of the fully-automatic weapons the Mexican drug cartels are getting (you know, the ones you already can’t buy on the US civilian market since the NFA registry was closed¹ in 1986) is the more than 150,000 soldiers who have deserted from the Mexican army to the drug cartels, because the cartels pay better, and taken their weapons with them — weapons supplied to Mexico largely by the US Government.  The US cannot fix Mexico’s problems; only the Mexican government can do that, and the Mexican government lacks the will and the integrity to do so.  The Mexican government is rotten from President Calderon all the way down to the cops on the street, among whom shaking down gringo tourists is a cottage industry; ours is honest and pure as the driven snow by comparison.  It takes a really wretched government to make ours look good.

The other best-chance step?  Drug decriminalization.  The “War on Drugs” is an abject failure.  It has increased crime and the amount of illegal drugs on the street by driving prices up and increasing the profitability of the illegal drug trade.  It has eroded civil liberties and overfilled prisons.  You know the single largest thing that drives the drug trade?  US drug policies.

As I previously reported, drug decriminalization worked in Portugal.  It’s been working in Holland for some time.  It could work here, too.  But our government is incapable of admitting error, and too committed to the War on Drugs to actually pull their heads out, look at it honestly, admit it’s failed, and stop throwing good money after bad.


[1]  For some values of “closed”.  There are widespread reports that politicians and the politically-well-connected are still able to get new fully-automatic weapons added to the registry, which they can then resell for huge profits.  In 2005, a BATFE employee let it slip that “one of the top gun control advocates currently in Congress” obtained a full-auto Colt M16A2 and got BATFE to register it on a form 1 as a transferable.  Sen. Chuck Schumer (yeah, that Chuck Schumer, one of the most strident anti-gun voices in the Senate) reportedly has several full-auto M16s registered to him.  This Highroad.org thread and this NFA Owners Association thread discuss the issue in some depth.

Subscribe
  • Post a new comment

    Error

    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

  • 20 comments