Sunday, March 22, 2009

Tom Diaz Addresses the House of Representatives

Tom Diaz is a senior policy analyst at the Violence Policy Center and a well-known advocate for strict gun control. Because he is a former NRA member and competitive shooter, who became a gun control activist, some of us feel his opinions carry more weight than someone who might not be familiar with the other side.

On March 12, 2009, Mr. Diaz made a statement in the U.S. House of Representatives before the Subcommittee on National Security & Foreign Affairs under the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. It was part of a Hearing on “Money, Guns, and Drugs: Are U.S. Inputs Fueling Violence on the U.S./Mexico Border?”

In the very beginning of the statement, in keeping with the title, he has this to say:

It is beyond question that firearms from the U.S. civilian gun market are fueling violence not only on both sides of the U.S./Mexico Border, but in Mexico itself.

This made me stop and think about several recent discussions we've had. News reports had come out recently stating that this just isn't so for the simple reason that the Mexican drug wars require far more weaponry than is possible to smuggle across the border a few pieces at a time. Now, here comes an expert on the matter, a guy who's been on both sides of the argument and presumably knows what he's talking about, addressing the House of Representatives with as strong a statement as this.

He goes on to explain, exactly what we've heard before in the Iknadosian case, that there are thousands of FFL dealers now along the border. Diaz describes the process as an inexorable army of ants moving guns over the border. To me it's convincing.

One of the surprising bits of information I learned in this statement was the fact that over the last three decades the numbers of guns have actually diminished in certain quarters. There are fewer hunters, for example. The demographics show that hunting is an older man's activity. Other survey data shows that "during the period 1972 to 2006, the percentage of American households that reported having any guns in the home dropped nearly 20 percentage points: from a high of 54 percent in 1977 to 34.5 percent in 2006."

I found that amazing, but not as amazing as the gun industry's response.
For the gun industry, innovation has translated into introducing increasingly deadly firearms into the civilian market. The gun industry uses firepower, or lethality, in the same way that the tobacco industry uses nicotine. Firearm lethality is a means to “hook” gun buyers into coming back into the market again and again as more deadly innovations are rolled out. As a consequence, the profile of the civilian gun industry today is defined by military style weaponry.

This increased lethality, naturally serves the gangsters, both foreign and domestic, who make up a certain percentage of the buyers. Guys like Iknadosian, and apparently there are thousands like him, have become expert in concealing the fact that their product is not all destined for sportsmen and collectors.

A large number of the firearms smuggled from the United States into Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America come from the Southwest, the states of which are notoriously lax in gun control laws and law enforcement regulation. It has been reported that there are more than 6,700 U.S. gun dealers within a short drive of the southern border — more than three dealers for each of the approximately 2,000
miles of the border.

In his statement Diaz concludes with clear suggestions about what can be done. Examples of these measures include stopping the production and import of military-style firearms such as semiautomatic assault weapons and 50 caliber anti-armor sniper rifles, and making all transfers of firearms subject to a background check.

What's your opinion? Do you feel Diaz' credibility is increased by the fact that he was formerly a member of the NRA? Are you swayed by the argument that thousands of gun dealers could actually supply the Mexican drug war with guns, transporting the weapons like a column of ants across the border? Do you think his suggestions fall into the category of "common sense gun laws?"

Please leave a comment with your opinion.


  1. The fact that his paper is filled with lies, and he has no interest in supporting his claims (Like a certain blogger I know) Should say all that is needed about his credibility.

    The fact that he works for the most dishonest anti-gun lobby in America that is only for repealing 2nd Amendment rights and banning guns, should say all that is needed about his stance on "Sensible gun control."

    He is arguing to ban all guns, just like you do Mike.

  2. Hmm, let's see U.S. guns or guns from Mexican army deserters? Which is more likely to be readily accessible?

    You've just thrown 6,000 U.S. citizens under the bus MikeB. Accusing them of being part of the crimes occurring in Mexico.

    And you did it without a shred of EVIDENCE. You are worse then the lowest. The Iknadosian was dismissed because the PROSECUTION, the U.S. Government couldn't show a single firearm actually reached Mexico. And still you throw people under the bus.

    Guess you might be too busy to actually do any of your own research. No wonder the Brady Campaign loves people like you, gullible and willing to spread lies.

    Wonder what you are doing that keeps you from doing research?
    Speaking of research, I need to try to find out how much child pornography is produced by ex-pats living in Italy.

  3. Semi-autos, some very high-end Sigs and other European handguns were not uncommon along with piles of old revolvers. I thought I had seen everything in the states, but in Mexico it's not uncommon for people to own full-auto military rifles. Everything from an M16, UZI machine pistols and the most popular, select-fire AK47 military rifles. These are not the so-called "assault weapons" you can buy at the local gun shop in the U.S., but full select-fire military-issue rifles. Now, I know you want to know and are dying to ask; Did I see any U.S. military-issue weapons stolen from the U.S. military? Not a single one was marked with U.S. military markings. Everything was marked with additional foreign markings on the receiver, including M16 rifles, or they had nothing at all. I saw firearms manufactured in Europe, China, Russia and South America along with U.S. manufactured weapons. I saw rifles that looked familiar with no place of manufacture, no serial number or manufacturer's logo. The information was not removed, it was never there to begin with. I can only assume they came from illegal arms manufacturers in India or Pakistan that produce copies of weapons. It was obvious that none of these firearms came from a U.S. gun shop in Tucson or San Diego. You couldn't buy them from a gun shop in the states if you tried.

    People with an agenda say these guns come from the US. People who have seen them, and know what is available in the US say that most of them aren't available in the US.

    Then there is this dramatic picture:

    The most numerous item on that table is...oil cans.

  4. "To me it's convincing"

    Yeah, except of course for the pesky little fact that Iknadosian's case was dismissed on a directed verdict because the prosecution HAD NO EVIDENCE.

    The VPC are even worse than the Brady's as far as flat out lying is concerned Mike. If he works for them he has NO credibility whatsoever.

  5. Of course it's 'convincing' to you Mike. It's an anti-gun rant by an anti-gun activist from an organization that admits to using deception to push their gun ban agenda.

    Remember that the dealer that everyone was convinced sold hundreds of 'assault weapons' to the Mexican Mafia was found not guilty do to lack of evidence.

  6. The "thousands of dealers" supplying firearms to Mexican drug lords is absurd. Forget the "thousands", just show me one gun show or a single FFL that I can go buy grenades, rockets, mortars and cheap full auto weapons. Just one.

    Even the fed's star gun dealer that was supposed to have sold a bajillion guns to Mexico had the charges dropped from lack of evidence.

  7. One other thought. If I join the Violence Policy Center or make a donation to them, does my credibility with the gun banners rise at that point?

  8. Good question, FWM!

    I'll put money that Mike will think that one is "Rhetorical" God forbid he shatters his argument by answering that.

    BTW I'm a "Member" of the Brady Campaign. Maybe I should have disclosed that a while ago to let Mike know I'm a kindred spirit!

  9. Even the fed's star gun dealer that was supposed to have sold a bajillion guns to Mexico had the charges dropped from lack of evidence.

    if you're thinking about Iknadosian, then it was actually more interesting --- and more confusing --- than that.

    he was prosecuted by the state of Arizona, not the feds at all. and he didn't have the charges dropped, the judge heard the prosecution's case and threw it out of court as lacking evidence. the state's appealing, last i heard; can't blame them, that sort of dismissal must sting.

  10. Hey,

    I'm a member of the "Coalition to Stop Gun Violence". It's a small world.


  11. Nomen - I don't quite understand how they plan to appeal. The case was thrown out on a directed verdict. Wouldn't double jeopardy attach?

  12. The link to the story of the guy who heard automatic gunfire in the streets at night was pretty convincing. But, the idea that the army deserters are supplying the guns is weak. That would be just like the "ants" carrying one gun at a time over the border.

    So, the jury's still out on this one.

  13. Why is it 'weak' MikeB?

    They estimate over 150,000 desertions in the last 6 years. There are billboards advertising jobs in the mafia for soldiers and police. The Mexican Gov't refuses to provide the majority of confiscated firearms for BATFE tracing. The Mexican Gov't and police are historically corrupt, selling equipment and taking payoffs from the druglords.

    Seems pretty likely.

  14. Mike W, i have no idea. i got that factoid from Dave Hardy's blog, and though he's a lawyer, he seemed to wonder about the very same fact also.

    seems to me that they ought to be able to appeal on procedural grounds, that is, argue that the judge had no legal basis for issuing a directed verdict. but i can't claim to really know how the "double jeopardy" protections function in that sort of detail.

  15. "The link to the story of the guy who heard automatic gunfire in the streets at night was pretty convincing."

    Wait a sec MikeB, I thought anecdotal evidence was meaningless? I guess that's only the case when we use it right?

    ONE story of a guy who "heard automatic gunfire in the streets" and you're convinced?

    Would you (or any of us) upon randomly hearing gunfire in the streets be able to tell whether the gun was full-auto or semi-auto?

    "the idea that the army deserters are supplying the guns is weak. That would be just like the "ants" carrying one gun at a time over the border.

    What border? Mexican army deserters don't have to carry guns over any border. They're already IN MEXICO.

  16. I think MikeB is saying that automatic gunfire indicates those particular guns probably aren't flowing from legitimate US sources.

    I think most people could tell the difference between full auto and semi. A semi will be hard pressed to exceed a cyclic rate of 300rpm, while AK47's are 600rpm, and M16's even faster. Both will be more evenly spaced than semiauto fire.

    ...and if you are going to desert, are you limited to your own rifle? Seems that someone who intends to desert and hand over his rifle is likely to hand over his squadmate's rifles as well, given the opportunity.

  17. Sevesteen, You said once that I'm frustrating because I don't let you pin me down. Well, some of the other commenters are frustrating for me because even when I'm agreeing with them, they argue with me. The automatic gunfire in the street in the story you linked to was evidence that the guns are not coming from the U.S. The question is how many, what percentage. Lately I've been reading it's 90% coming from above the border.

  18. Is there any supporting evidence to the 90% number, or is it pulled out of someone's ass to support an agenda? If the number is 90%, wouldn't the guy who went shooting with his Mexican colleagues see 90% US-legal guns rather than full-auto?

    If we were to eliminate US-sourced guns, do you think that would reduce the numbers of Mexican guns by a like amount, or would it just switch the source to wherever the full autos are coming from?

    We've apparently got Mexican criminals who are good at penetrating our borders, and with a history of kidnapping heavily arming themselves. Do you really think it is a good idea for us to DIS-arm under these circumstances?

  19. Sevesteen, I'm the first one to say that all stats are suspect; I always have that in the back of my mind. One place I saw the 90% figure was in the new report the Brady's just put out. I read it last night and you'll never guess, I was swayed towards their side of the argument. I've really been vacillating on this one.

    The report is called Exporting Gun Violence, on page 1, chapter heading, Executive Summary, there's a bunch of stats including that "upwards of 90%" one. The footnotes are all there directing us to the Houston Chronicle, the USA Today and CNN, among others.

  20. The 90% number was the least important of the questions I asked. It is a preposterous number. The proof is likely circular--Brady reports a number, a newspaper prints their press release as fact, then the Bradys use the newspaper as a "source".

    The parts you ignored are by far more important.

  21. Well, you know what, Sevesteen, I reread your comment and it's not that easy to determine which is the most important question. I remember Bob and Weer'd started out by repeatedly calling me out for "ignoring" they're questions. I hope you're not going that route.

    The whole first paragraph was devoted to the 90% question. But, if I had to guess, now that you've called my attention to it, the final question must be what you're referring to.

    Do I think, given all that's going on, now would be a good time for you to disarm?

    Well as you've pointed out yourself, I haven't really committed to a solution. I've not said disarming is the solution, nor have I said I believe in gun banning. I certainly lean that way, as is obvious from my posting, but I recognize there's always a dilemma when trying to suggest such a solution.

    Like in the case of the Marshall brothers the other day, I couldn't in all honesty say that I'd not want to be armed if the escaped convicts came to my house, or if I had to commute on the NYC subway, for that matter. I'd probably want to be armed regardless of the law. That's my dilemma.

    But what I would not do myself, and what I won't accept from some of you guys is the claim that arming ourselves, the teachers, and everybody else who wants to, is the solution and doesn't have a big down side to it.

    It's that down side which needs to be weighed against the benefits. But doing that is a bit tricky, both the advantages and the disadvantages of gun proliferation are difficult to quantify, first of all, but before we even attempt to do it, most people engaged in the argument deny the very existence of the opponent's points.

    Does that sound like a bunch of bullshit that doesn't answer your question?

  22. "Does that sound like a bunch of bullshit that doesn't answer your question?"

    Actually yes, it does.

  23. I had to commute on the NYC subway, for that matter. I'd probably want to be armed regardless of the law.

    This illustrates one of the points we've been making rather well--laws don't stop people from having guns, they just determine how law-abiding the gun owning and carrying population is. You can't get rid of guns, or even reduce them by much without also eliminating non-gun rights like search and seizure.

    Mostly we aren't advocating arming everyone--we merely want most people to have the right even if they choose not to exercise it. Licensing seems to be a good compromise with a minuscule fraction causing issues.

    Most of the pro-carry arguments are that license holders historically don't cause significant problems. These arguments are valid, and they are the easiest to support but they aren't the most important.

    The real argument is freedom. I don't want to live under a totalitarian government, even if they keep crime low and the trains run on time. I don't want the government to be the sole judge of who deserves effective protection, even if I'm one of the chosen.
    I don't want someone to twist statistics around to increase their own power. Banning methods of self-defense is a critical step.

    The second amendment is relatively simple. It takes convoluted logic to come up with a definition that allows significant gun control, and those definitions make the second completely meaningless.

    I would rather have the second repealed than continue the precedent of ignoring or redefining the portions of the constitution that don't suit a particular agenda. The constitution is meant to limit government power, even when that is inconvenient to the government.

  24. MikeB,

    But what I would not do myself, and what I won't accept from some of you guys is the claim that arming ourselves, the teachers, and everybody else who wants to, is the solution and doesn't have a big down side to it.

    What down side does it have?

    Every single instance of you trying to point out a down side has the same flaw.

    The down side depends on someone breaking the law.

    If the gun owners has the gun stolen, there is a down side.

    And on and on.

    The down side will be there for anything, regardless of whether or not you want to admit it.

    I started the child porn to poke fun at this exact line of reasoning.

    Computers "have a down side", so do cameras, and the internet and allowing our children outside without direct supervision....but only if someone BREAKS the law.

    In the mean time, your line of reasoning leads to a real life situation, regarding "its for the children".

    I was single until I was 39, as such I was an active in the lives of my sisters kids. My niece wanted some pictures of her cheerleading at a local football game....innocent, right?

    Well, do to the hysteria over "men being child predators" I was questioned by some parents and had the police called on me. For taking pictures of my niece during a daytime football game.

    Not all of the downsides are criminal, sometimes they prevent law abiding activities from happening.

    The hysteria over firearms has prevented people from using them to defend themselves. Washington D.C. is a great example, handguns banned in 1976 and the murder rate was the highest in the country for several years. How many people died in the name of gun control?

    It's that down side which needs to be weighed against the benefits.

    It's hard to weigh the benefits MikeB when you dismiss the evidence out of hand as you have repeatedly done. Not all statistics are biased and not all statistics are manipulated.
    I've presented reams of data, facts, figures and statistics showing the near total picture that your "easy availability" theory is wrong. I've presented information showing that gun control doesn't work.

    What more do you need to "weigh" the advantages and disadvantages?

    But doing that is a bit tricky, both the advantages and the disadvantages of gun proliferation are difficult to quantify,

    No, actually it isn't difficult to quantify. That information has been presented over and over again.

    We can study the effect of gun control on cities that have increased control efforts (Washington D.C. Chicago, San Fran) and we can study the effort on Cities that have reduced control efforts (Miami, Dallas, etc). We can see the changes in RATES.

    We can study the differences by looking at nations that have gun control and those that don't. While more difficult, the RATES once again show that gun control doesn't work. Some countries with strict gun control have high crime...others low. Some countries with high firearm ownership have high suicide rates and some have low suicide rates.

    All this data has been presented, repeatedly....and you dismiss it.

    In the end, here is the rub that I have most: You flat out don't care about the right to keep and bear arms as right. You seem to deem it a privilege that can be modified to fit the current social-economic-political-feel good-do nothing theory of the day.

    You deny that it is equivalent with the other rights protected by the Bill of Rights.

    You vehemently protect all the other rights...but relegate the 2nd to a lower status because it protects the right to own "an item".

    You ignore the fact that the 1st amendment protects the right to own a bible, or printing press, or a computer.