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I am a consultant and analyst with eight years of military law enforcement experience, six years of analytical experience covering Latin America, and over seven years of analytical experience covering Mexican TCOs and border violence issues. This blog is designed to inform readers about current border violence issues and provide analysis on those issues, as well as detailed focus on specific border topics. By applying my knowledge and experience through this blog, I hope to separate the wheat from the chaff...that is, dispel rumors propagated by sensationalist media reporting, explain in layman's terms what is going on with Mexican TCOs, and most importantly, WHY violence is happening along the US-Mexico border.

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With over a dozen years of combined experience in military law enforcement, force protection analysis, and writing a variety of professional products for the US Air Force, state government in California, and the general public, Ms. Longmire has the expertise to create a superior product for you or your agency to further your understanding of Mexico’s drug war. Longmire Consulting is dedicated to being on the cusp of the latest developments in Mexico in order to bring you the best possible analysis of threats posed by the drug violence south of the border.

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October 30, 2010

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In your analysis you lament and use as argument the fact that banks, and government agencies already have computerized files containing our personal information, so why not allow the BATF to have the same? You argue that we are already practically stripped searched before being allowed to board a commercial flight, so why not allow the BATF the same powers? You argue that we must stop the large flow of firearms south into Mexico by the straw buyers?
Clearly I would have been much more impressed if your argument had been reversed, and you instead chose to supported the constitution, in argument against the very intrusions which you cite as models to justify more intrusion. To tell you the truth I am beginning to question my first acceptance of you as an honest to goodness free spirited person simply writing your own beliefs? More and more your ‘’analyses’’ are reading like a propaganda sheet in support of more government instead of less government, and less intrusion of the American Citizen. Yes some firearms are bought in the US which are later crossed into Mexico. So what? What does that apparent fact have to do we me, the law abiding American Citizen.. who has already been bled to death supporting a flawed and failed attempt to secure our borders, by a government that has done nothing but to play footsie with Mexico, and their encouragement of 500,000 people a year to crossed illegally into our country for the past 50 years? A government so corrupt, and without even a glimmer of remorse for being such…that I should give up even more of my freedom to support? Get real! Firearms being bought here and crossed into Mexico, are not the problem Mexico should be concerned with, nor should we.

Fred


@Fred - I totally understand how you feel...I really do. It's just difficult to watch when an agency is charged with upholding our laws, then not allowed to do so by the very government that gave it that mission. And I think we sometimes (myself included) get too wrapped around the axle when it comes to southbound weapons trafficking. We forget that there are MANY firearms violations going on domestically that have nothing to do with Mexico, and the ATF is similarly prohibited from fully pursuing certain leads or investigative steps because of legal restrictions that come from political sources. I also don't know that I can be so blasé about what US-origin guns are used for once they leave our borders. I, for one, would be pretty ticked off at China if they said they didn't care what happened to foreign kids who ingested lead paint from toys made there. For the record, I can't stand big government and don't want any administration intruding into my personal affairs more than they already have. However, I understand that the government needs some of our personal information if laws are to be upheld and violations investigated. There just needs to be some balance that emerges from a common sense approach.

A Firearms Tracing System is a euphemism for a firearms registration system. It does not matter if the system includes all firearms or all owners, nor if the system is manual (paper) or automated (electronic). If the system records and registers "firearms, firearms owners, or firearms transactions or dispositions" it is a clear violation of 18 U.S.C. 926(a).

The ATF Firearms Tracing System is a fraud. It purports to trace "crime guns", but, in fact, is increasingly used as a Firearms Registration System. Innocent gun buyers from years ago are reported to corrupt foreign police and are treated as gun trafficking suspects. Does it occasionally work? Yes, much in the same way as picking names out of a telephone book.

According to a 2010 Inspector General report, in over 75 percent of successful traces of seized Mexican guns, the gun was originally purchased over 5 years ago, and the information is useless for law enforcement. The average age of guns traced nationwide is over 10 years and the gun could have been resold a dozen times. American and foreign police (including corrupt Mexican cops) have access to names and addresses of legitimate, honest American gun owners.

Traced "suspect guns" include (ATF's own examples), individuals purchasing large quantities of firearms (including collectors of older firearms rarely used in crime), and dealers with "improper" record keeping. ATF calls all traced guns "Crime Guns", but nothing could be further from the truth. Some were certainly used in crime, but most were traced by Law Enforcement for some other reason. Some were traced because they were innocently carried in a car, others because they were found where an unrelated crime occurred. If ATF (or the police) take guns into custody from a collector (even if completely innocent), the guns are traced. Other sources of innocent traces include recovered stolen guns, gun "buy-back" schemes and guns voluntarily turned in to the police from estates and other completely innocent sources. Police have reported ATF tries to compel them to trace every possible firearm, whether used in a crime or not. This is consistent with ATF's goal to trace 100% of guns in police custody (reported in 2007).
The federal government itself (Congressional Research Service) questions ATF’s reports and statistics:
• "The ATF tracing system is an operational system designed to help law enforcement agencies identify the ownership path of individual firearms. It was not designed to collect statistics."
• "Firearms selected for tracing do not constitute a random sample and cannot be considered representative of the larger universe of all firearms used by criminals, or of any subset of that universe."
• "A law enforcement officer may initiate a trace request for any reason. No crime need be involved. No screening policy ensures or requires that only guns known or suspected to have been used in crimes are traced." BATFE "noted it is not possible to determine if traced firearms are related to criminal activity."
• "Trace requests are not accurate indicators of specified crimes .... traces may be requested for a variety of reasons not necessarily related to criminal incidents. For example, a trace may be conducted on a firearm found at the residence of a suspect though the firearm itself is not associated with a criminal act. Traces may also be requested with respect to abandoned firearms, those found by chance, those seen by officers for sale at gun shows or pawn shops, or those used by suicide victims. . . . It is not possible to identify how frequently firearm traces are requested for reasons other than those associated with violent crimes."
• "ATF does not always know if a firearm being traced has been used in a crime. For instance, sometimes a firearm is traced simply to determine the rightful owner after it is found by a law enforcement agency."
The basis of ATF tracing is make, model and serial number. Serial numbers on guns are not sacrosanct. Recording of serial numbers is subject to human error, as it is easy to omit a digit or two, or transpose a couple of numbers in dealer records. Similar errors when entering a serial into the tracing system will result in false traces.
Criminals can even add a number or letter to a serial on a gun, or completely replace it with a false number. Once a gun is traced, even falsely or in error, and no matter how innocent the buyer, the first (and any known subsequent) owner's personal data is permanently retained in the ATF trace file. It is also documented that in attempts to accomplish a trace, Law Enforcement will frequently enter partial serial numbers to attempt a match, which results in additional false traces.

The Firearms Tracing System is filled with irrelevant data from which ATF attempts to make nonsensical connections. Simply throwing irrelevant data into a records system will not ensure any meaningful result. (Called Garbage In, Garbage Out). Untold millions of taxpayer dollars are spent to create, maintain and enlarge this questionable system.

The Firearms Owners Protection Act of 1986 (18 U.S.C. 926(a)) was not put in place for the convenience of ATF, but specifically to curb ATF abuse, protect American firearms owners, and prevent creating a national firearms registration system. Using legal technicalities and convoluted legal logic, ATF has deliberately evaded this law and the appropriations restrictions to justify creating and maintaining backdoor registration systems defying the law and thwarting the Will of Congress and the American People.

Permanently retaining all data from erroneous, false, and phony traces (as well as legitimate traces of non-crime guns), adding innocent multiple gun purchase data and throwing more questionable data into the mix does not improve the quality of the output. Allowing corrupt foreign (or domestic) police traces, and providing reports to corrupt foreign police further compounds the problem.
Regardless of the discredited information from the eTrace System, ATF reportedly treats any dealer (reported by traces) as a suspect, or as a corrupt dealer in collusion with straw buyers. In fact, most gun dealers would gladly cooperate with ATF and police, since (as a rule) licensed dealers have no interest in supplying criminals with firearms. However, when ATF treats all such dealers as suspects and subjects them to intense unwarrented scrutiny, each dealer has to be very careful what they say to ATF or risk revocation of their license or even risk criminal prosecution. In much the same way, the first purchaser of a firearm traced (legitimately or falsely) from a seized Mexican gun will be treated as a gun trafficking (straw purchase) suspect by the ATF – even though that American gun owner may have sold the gun years ago and is completely innocent. These individuals will be subject to additional scrutiny and investigation by ATF – for no legitimate reason.

Sylvia:

ATF would get a LOT more support if they would quit lying to Congress and the American People. Their credibility is so low, that most people don't believe anything they say (especially in press conferences) and are afraid to cooperate with them.

For example: ATF testifies before Congress (and in press conferences) that 90% of seized Mexican guns come from the United States. In 2010, the Office of the Inspector General discredited that percentage. Melson now says it doesn't really matter whether it's 20% or 90%. We think it does matter.

Only a small percent have been successfully traced. In fact, the only guns that can be traced are guns from America. There are no other tracing systems. At this point, we have no idea how many guns are being smuggled to Mexico - but we agree that many are.

ATF calls all traced guns "crime guns", which is not true. Many guns not related to crimes are traced, and this skews the data to make it nonsensical. This was confirmed by the Congressional Research Service.

ATF uses the "catch phrase" of "time to crime". This is totally false and only refers to "time to trace". Their phrase is used to mislead readers of their reports.

Now, ATF is reporting names and addresses of totally innocent American gun owners to the Mexican police. There may be some smugglers and/or straw buyers among them, but who's to know? Why don't we simply hand the Mexican police a copy of the Phoenix phone book? It's got some straw buyers and smugglers listed.....

None of us want to see U.S. guns smuggled to Mexico, but there's no point in all of us becoming ATF suspects!

"It's just difficult to watch when an agency is charged with upholding our laws,"

Laws that are not constitutional. Isn't it strange that there were NO federal firearms laws before 1934? Did the founders and their successors for the next 100+ years just not bother to exercise this mythical gun control authority? That gun control act and all others are an abuse of the interstate commerce clause and a violation of the 2nd amendment. The only reason they still stand is because of the progressive infestation of our courts which believes the constitution can be re-interpreted (different than amended) as people's whims change.

It seems like you are for the expansion of unconstitutional federal authority to stop the small flow of weapons from the US to Mexico. Time might be better spent encouraging the Mexican gov allow their citizens the ability to defend themselves or stop the real sources of the Narco's firearms such as latin/South America and china.

Sylvia ... if we can't stop illegal drugs from entering the USA across the border, then I doubt seriously that we will stop weapons from flowing southwards into Mexico. Furthermore, if you look at cartels like Sinaloa, la Familia and the Zeta's - these people have very strong import/export capabilities. They are linked to other criminal groups across the world. It's no problem for La Familia to import tons of chemicals for use in the synthesis of crystal meth, so it's no real difficulty for them to buy arms on the black market. The USA just happens to be a convenient place to shop - that's all.

I'm very cautious about the ATF getting more powers to track weapons, though I realize that many of their agents may have the right priorities in mind. The trouble with expanding Gov't powers is that you never know where it will lead - and quite possibly it could lead to an erosion of our freedoms. It seems to me that the ATF could easily set up sting operations to nab illegal weapons dealers. That approach also gives them the chain of evidence they need to convict gun smugglers - so let them do their current job.

It does my heart good to read the replies here. Thank each and everyone of you!

Fred

" that we will stop weapons from flowing southwards into Mexico"


Which brings up another point. Not only are the federal gun laws unconstitutional and an abuse of the interstate commerce clause, I believe so is providing border security for other countries. We should not be doing outbound inspections for any country. It is time Mexico and its people to man up and provide for its own security.

"Think about it from a practical/rational perspective. We all have to register our vehicles with county government agencies, which means we have personal information in a government database. "

This comparison is common in the healthcare debate:" Well we are required to have car insurance, why not require people to have health insurance".

This shows an ignorance of our structure of governance. There is a difference between state/local government and the federal government. The federal gov is governed by the US constitution. Stats/local is governed by their respective constitutions. The Fed gov has not authority to regulate drugs, guns or healthcare. All that needs to happen at the state level if the state const gives that authority. So yes we have to register our cars but that is an authority only given at the state level.

I have already apologized to Sylvia for insinuating that perhaps she was a government propagandist via an e-mail I sent her shortly after my first post on this subject. I feel it important that I now make that apology publicly here. My first instincts of Sylvia when discovering her site and her work here, were that she was genuine and a true patriot of this country which I love so dearly. I erred, and I apologize to Sylvia for doing so.
Fred

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