Now It's SF Chron Using False '90% of Mexican Guns From US' Line

July 1st, 2009 3:33 AM

The San Francisco Chronicle is proving the old bromide true. That's the one that goes: "a lie can be half way 'round the world before the truth can pull its boots on" (often incorrectly attributed to Mark Twain). Then there is another one Twain didn't originate but aptly fits here, "there are three kinds of lies: Lies, damned lies and statistics." The subject of this scoffing is that factoid the Old Media has been promulgating like gospel where "90% of Mexico's confiscated guns are from the U.S."

The problem with this "90%" refrain is that it just isn't true. There is no truth in the claim that 90% of the guns Mexican officials confiscate from drug dealers in Mexico are from the U.S.A. But, true or not, the Old Media use this line as if it were received truth. Suspicions are easily raised that they do so because it fits their ideological matrix perfectly and the truth of the matter does not fit the approved story line.

This 90% line appeared in The New York Times and many other sources earlier this year and still crops up even after William La Jeunesse and Maxim Lott proved the claim to be fraudulent.

And now the SFChron can add its name to the list of fraudulent reporters using this discredited claim. In a story about how BATF and ICE officials are making plans to team up to more easily coordinate investigations of cross-border gun trafficking, the SFChron slipped in this paragraph:

Last year, Mexican authorities seized more than 12,000 weapons that were submitted to ATF for tracing. That compares with about 2,900 such weapons in 2007 and about 2,650 in 2006. Ninety percent of those weapons could be traced back to the United States, ATF spokesman Drew Wade said.

The SFChron simply got it wrong. The 90% is true, of course, but affixed to the 12,000 guns it is not. As La Jeunesse and Lott discovered back in April, the 90% number pertains to those guns that are "tracable" and that is not 12,000 guns but more like 6,000. You see, of the 12,000 guns given to the BATF, only 6,000 proved tracable and of that 6,000 5,114 were found to come from the U.S.A.

But the bigger fact is that of all the guns collected by the Mexican government, only 17% were traced to the U.S.A. According to La Jeunesse and Lott between 2007 and 2008, Mexico took in over 29,000 illegal guns and of that number only 5,114 proved to be from the U.S.

These facts make the bald 90% claim seem far less shocking. So why use the false numbers when the truth is easily known? Why do the denizens of the Old Media continue to use these discredited claims? That would be a good question, wouldn't it?