Dobbs falsely claimed Holder had "no empirical basis" for suggesting Mexican cartels are using weapons from America

››› ››› HANNAH DREIER

In a February 25 press conference, Attorney General Eric Holder asserted that "reinstitut[ing] the ban on the sale of assault weapons" would "have a positive impact in Mexico." The next day on Lou Dobbs Tonight, correspondent Bill Tucker stated that "as you well know and we reported here often," drug cartel members are "often armed with weapons that were issued by the Mexican military." Dobbs responded, in part: "Eric Holder has no empirical basis for anything he's saying. The man is completely at sea on this." In fact, U.S. agencies have repeatedly acknowledged that drug cartels have illegally trafficked firearms from the United States into Mexico, and Dobbs himself acknowledged in August 2008 that "victims on both sides" of the border "have been killed by weapons smuggled from the United States."

During the February 26 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, host Lou Dobbs responded with a false attack to Attorney General Eric Holder's comment that "reinstitut[ing] the ban on the sale of assault weapons" would "have a positive impact in Mexico." Holder made the statement during a February 25 press conference detailing the arrest of alleged members of a Mexican drug cartel. Dobbs said of Holder's comment, "Eric Holder obviously does not know anything about which he's speaking when it comes to Mexico." In response, correspondent Bill Tucker stated that "as you well know and we reported here often," cartel members are "often armed with weapons that were issued by the Mexican military." Dobbs replied, "Absolutely. And there again, Eric Holder has no empirical basis for anything he's saying. The man is completely at sea on this." In fact, U.S. agencies have repeatedly acknowledged that drug cartels have illegally trafficked firearms from the United States into Mexico. Indeed, Dobbs himself has previously reported that "victims on both sides" of the border "have been killed by weapons smuggled from the United States."

During the press conference, in response to a question about whether he had "offered some sort of help to prevent" assault weapons from "go[ing] to the Mexican cartels," Holder stated that the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) is "doing all that it can to ensure that we stanch the flow of those weapons to Mexico." As a follow-up, Holder was asked, "I understand Mexico is interested in the U.S. reviewing the enforcement of its assault weapons regulations. Are you doing something about that?" He replied: "Well, as President Obama indicated during the campaign, there are just a few gun-related changes that we would like to make, and among them would be to reinstitute the ban on the sale of assault weapons. I think that will have a positive impact in Mexico, at a minimum."

According to a September 2008 ATF "Fact Sheet," "Mexican DTO [drug trafficking organization] infrastructures have become the leading gun trafficking organizations operating in the southwest U.S.":

Most of the firearms violence in Mexico is perpetrated by drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) who are vying for control of drug trafficking routes to the United States and engaging in turf battles for disputed distribution territories. Hundreds of Mexican citizens and law enforcement personnel have become casualties of the firearms-related violence. DTOs operating in Mexico rely on firearms suppliers to enforce and maintain their illicit narcotics operations. Intelligence indicates these criminal organizations have tasked their money laundering, distribution and transportation infrastructures reaching into the United States to acquire firearms and ammunition. These Mexican DTO infrastructures have become the leading gun trafficking organizations operating in the southwest U.S.

The fact sheet further reported: "In the past two years, ATF has seized thousands of firearms headed to Mexico."

Indeed, Michael Sullivan, the acting director of the ATF, reportedly said in August 2008 that investigators have traced 90 percent to 95 percent of the weapons found in Mexico to the United States. According to an August 11, 2008, Associated Press article:

Nearly all illegal guns seized in Mexico come from the United States, the head of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said Monday.

ATF acting director Michael Sullivan said investigators have traced 90 to 95% of the weapons found in Mexico to the U.S. Generally, only law-enforcement officers or military personnel can legally possess guns in Mexico.

Sullivan, speaking at the fifth annual Border Security Conference at the University of Texas at El Paso, said the weapons are being traced as part of an effort by the U.S. and Mexico to stop the illegal flow of guns south.

[...]

Many of the weapons being found in Mexico have been traced to smuggling points in Southern California, Arizona, Texas and New Mexico, Sullivan said. But he added that weapons are being traced to sellers in "virtually every state, as far north as Washington state."

Sullivan said recent successes in tracking guns thought to be fueling an increasingly violent drug cartel war are attributed to an "e-trace" system that allows officials on both sides of the border to quickly track weapons.

Additionally, the Mexican government has also partnered with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in the information-sharing Armas Cruzadas program. A June 9, 2008, press release for the program quoted Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for ICE Julie Myers as saying, "Armas Cruzadas partners U.S. and Mexican law enforcement agencies to share information and intelligence in an effort to comprehensively attack the growing gun violence in Mexico. ... Faced with an explosive, high-caliber threat, we knew we needed an equally effective, high-caliber response to thwart the illegal export of weapons into Mexico." Indeed, Dobbs reported on the launch of the Armas Cruzadas program on the June 9, 2008, edition of Lou Dobbs Tonight and -- contrary to Tucker's suggestion that Lou Dobbs Tonight had reported only on cartel members "armed with weapons that were issued by the Mexican military" -- said: "The drug wars now claiming victims on both sides of that border. Many have been killed by weapons smuggled from the United States."

From the Federal News Service transcript of Holder's February 25 press conference (retrieved from the Nexis database):

Q General Holder, the attorney general for Mexico, I understand, expressed their concerns about the increasing number of weapons, heavy weapons (and guns ?) and large armored vehicles. Have you offered some sort of help to prevent that these weapons go to the Mexican cartels and continue this war against the Mexican -- (off mike)?

ATTY GEN. HOLDER: In our conversations yesterday and in a phone conversation I had with the attorney general, I guess in the week before, that was a concern that he raised, about the number of illegal weapons that are finding their way to Mexico; not only the number, but I guess the caliber, the size of the weapons that you see in Mexico.

ATF is doing all that it can to ensure that we stanch the flow of those weapons to Mexico. As good partners, I think that is one of the things that we have to do. If Mexican authorities, Mexican law enforcement personnel are going to put their lives on the line, we in the United States, it seems to me, have a responsibility to make sure that they are not fighting substantial numbers of weapons or fighting against AK-47s or other similar kinds of weapons that have been flowing to Mexico.

And it was also one of the reasons why -- and you'll forgive me for the Spanish that I use -- to try to express to our friends, our colleagues in Mexico, in their language, our determination to stand with them in this courageous fight that President Calderon and the attorney general have started.

Q A follow-up on that one? I understand Mexico is interested in the U.S. reviewing the enforcement of its assault weapons regulations. Are you doing something about that?

ATTY GEN. HOLDER: I'm sorry, I didn't quite understand.

Q The enforcement of the assault weapons regulation in the U.S. Are you reviewing that? Because Mexico, (I think understandably ?), wants it.

ATTY GEN. HOLDER: Well, as President Obama indicated during the campaign, there are just a few gun-related changes that we would like to make, and among them would be to reinstitute the ban on the sale of assault weapons.

I think that will have a positive impact in Mexico, at a minimum.

From the February 26 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight:

DOBBS: Outrage tonight over claims the Obama administration is trying to weaken our rights under the Second Amendment. As we reported to you here yesterday, Attorney General Eric Holder is willing to sacrifice our gun ownership rights under the Constitution for the benefit of a foreign government, in this case Mexico. The attorney general, who apparently thinks we're a nation of cowards when it comes to race, seems to believe that we're also a nation of cowards and fools when it comes to our constitutional rights. Bill Tucker has the report. Bill.

TUCKER: Well, Lou, to say that the attorney general set off a firestorm among gun owners and those who believe in our Second Amendment rights to bear arms might be an understatement. This is what Attorney General Holder had to say yesterday.

HOLDER [video clip]: As President Obama indicated during the campaign, there are just a few gun-related changes that we would like to make, and among them would be to reinstitute the ban on the sale of assault weapons. I think that will have a positive impact in Mexico, at a minimum.

TUCKER: Now, there are lots of things that are offensive to gun owners and some national security experts about their quote, starting with there's no evidence that banning semiautomatic firearms would stem the drug cartel violence in Mexico.

FRED BURTON (Stratfor vice president for counterterrorism and corporate security) [video clip]: You can shut the door of the weapons flowing south all you want. They have the financial resources inside of Mexico to acquire these weapons through the gray arms up through Guatemala, from Belgium, from Israel, from China, from South Korea.

TUCKER: Now, what often confuses people in this debate outside of the gun community is the use of the phrase "assault weapons." The phrase often conjures up images of automatic weapons fire, machine gun fire, for example. You might be interested to know those types of guns have been heavily regulated since 1934. And in 1986, President Reagan took the law even further, making it illegal to own or possess an automatic weapon that was not made or registered before May of 1986.

When Attorney General Holder and President Obama used the phrase "assault weapons," they're referring to semiautomatic guns that are styled to look like their fully automatic military counterparts. Now, President Clinton had signed a law banning such guns, but that law expired in 2004. And Lou, just how big a tempest in the teapot this caused -- Attorney General Holder's comments cause? It was evident today in the House, where House Speaker Pelosi could not back away from the comments fast enough, throwing cold water on it, saying maybe we ought to start with just enforcing the gun laws we have right now.

DOBBS: Enforcing the ones that we do have. Eric Holder making it very clear, and it's one of the reasons that he was -- well, gun ownership groups all over the country opposing him, and then here in less than -- in just over a month in office, he is out doing exactly what they feared he would do. And by the way, we should point out, Eric Holder obviously does not know anything about which he's speaking when it comes to Mexico --

TUCKER: Right.

DOBBS: -- because the Mexican government will not even provide serial numbers that they say come from American weapons that have brought -- been brought in from the United States, leading a lot of people in law enforcement to think that they're lying through their lovely little teeth on this issue. Not providing the serial numbers. No one can figure out why they won't provide those serial numbers.

TUCKER: Well, and as you well know and we reported here often, they're often armed with weapons that were issued by the Mexican military.

DOBBS: Absolutely. And there again, Eric Holder has no empirical basis for anything he's saying. The man is completely at sea on this, and by the way, again, believes that the Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights is the only non-individual-right amendment.

Posted In
Justice & Civil Liberties, Guns
Network/Outlet
CNN
Person
Lou Dobbs
Show/Publication
Lou Dobbs Tonight
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