I have never been particularly impressed with Stratfor Global Intelligence's analyses of current events, and had that reaffirmed with a recent article entitled, "The Other Consequences of Fast and Furious."
Beginning with the false premise that the majority of cartel weapons in Mexico were obtained from American gun shows and gun stores (precisely the propaganda point that the Gunwalker Scandal was designed to elicit), Stratfor eschews witha sniff the political controversy and says:
Rather, we are more interested in the way that criticism of Fast and Furious has altered law enforcement efforts to stem the flow of guns from the United States to Mexico and the way these changes will influence how Mexican cartels acquire weapons.
The Statfor article then details "Law Enforcement Shifts" based almost entirely on ATF sources, designed to push the "Iron River" meme and the valiant struggle of the gun cops to overcome it.
Despite their impact, the law enforcement and reporting changes cannot stem the tide of weapons entirely. In the same way that drug flows adapt to law enforcement interdiction efforts, weapons flows will also adjust. Previous federal investigations have shown that Mexican cartels have contacts in many different parts of the United States, including cities such as Chicago and Atlanta, far from the border. One way to bypass the increase in ATF inspections and the border state reporting requirements is to buy guns in states located farther from the border. Of course, this would require the weapons to be transported longer distances to get to Mexico, increasing transportation costs as well as exposure to interdiction efforts. A shift in the points of purchase would also almost certainly result in the expansion of the new reporting requirements to other states.Although it will never be possible to completely cut off the flow of guns to Mexico from the United States, it can be reduced. This would force the cartels to search for new sources of weapons.
Riiiight. And what are these new sources? Why Stratfor has a suspect, courtesy of the ATF, the "80% receiver."
One significant emerging source of AR-15/M16 variants is something called an 80 percent lower receiver. (The lower receiver is the part of the AR-15/M16/M4 that carries a manufacturer's serial number. These 80 percent lower receivers do not have any serial numbers.) Under U.S. federal firearms law, the unfinished lower receiver is not considered a firearm and thus can be shipped anywhere and sold to anyone without a license. Once the remaining machining on the lower receiver is completed, one can build an AR-15, M16 or M4 carbine by purchasing the additional required parts -- such as the bolt assembly, trigger assembly and barrel -- which also are not considered firearms. Once the weapon is fully assembled, it is then considered a firearm and subject to federal firearms law.While the 80 percent lower receivers are intended for do-it-yourself gun enthusiasts, according to the ATF, these guns have also begun to show up in increasing numbers in Mexico.Many if not most of the semi-automatic rifles purchased in the United States and smuggled into Mexico are converted to be capable of fully automatic fire by armorers working for various cartel groups. The same armorers are capable of finishing the machining on 80 percent lower receivers and assembling completed firearms from them. The finishing process is not difficult, and there are specialized jigs one can buy and instructional videos posted on the Internet to assist in the process. With experience, proper parts and equipment, a competent machinist can quickly and easily finish a lower receiver in an hour or less.
I did some checking around and this business of the "eighty percent receiver" says more about the appetite of the ATF for an expanded mandate to control gun manufacturing in this country than it does about reality in Mexico.
I asked a number of folks including Georgia gun designer and SOT-licensed manufacturer Len Savage (a good friend of Ramsey A. Bear) about the Statfor article's premises and he replied to the email recipients:
I saw this earlier this week.A couple of things to note:* 80% receiver thing...bullshit. There is no such thing. ATF or any govt agency does not recognize 80%. Term of art nothing more.* Since the mid 90's manufacturing machinery has been going to Mexico...I KNOW this. I made some of those machines that went when I worked for SESCO (Special Engineering Services Co.)* With a simple and relatively cheap 3 axis CNC you can just push a button and make as many machinegun receivers as you wish....Prints and data package are available online at no cost (google if you don't believe me).* Mike has been to my shop, and can tell you: very simple and modest (less than 800 square feet) and no CNC equipment. I make MG's or semiautos regularly in it. There is also the example of the Khyber pass gun makers in mud huts, an anvil and files have been making guns for the last hundred years with no electricity!!!!!* With cartel money and influence they could get the equipment and it is not that difficult (think of all the small ffl/07's in this country working out of their homes and garages) Ronny Barrett designed and made his now famous .50 cal sniper rifle in his garage on simple machines.
A source within the ATF confirmed that the "eighty percent receiver" was just "the latest boogeyman-threat invented by the higher-ups to persuade the Congress to give them more power to regulate manufacturers and strangle the legal individual manufacture of semi-auto ARs for personal use."
Another source familiar with the gun industry pointed out that the eighty percent receiver's offered for sale were "just not that cheap. If you're a drug cartel drowning in money, you can afford an arms manufactory with all the bells and whistles . . . (after the initial investment in machinery) you can crank 'em out, for a fraction of the cost of the 80 percent receiver blank, which still requires machining to finish it anyway."
Readers may recall this story from back in October of last year which quoted a State Department cable from October 2009 which warned:
"Claims by Mexican and U.S. officials that upwards of 90 percent of illegal recovered weapons can be traced back to the U.S. is based on an incomplete survey of confiscated weapons. In point of fact, without wider access to the weapons seized in Mexico, we really have no way of verifying these numbers."
Thefts from Mexican government arsenals, importations of weapons left over from the guerrilla wars in Central and South America in the 90s are also significant sources of cartel weapons. Yet, the meme invented by Billy Hoover of the ATF and parroted by many anti-gun politicians including the President, has always been that American gun shows and gun stores (the same gun stores whose owners had to be coerced into selling to straw buyers) are the principal sources of cartel weapons.
In this lie, Stafor has now apparently been recruited as a willing pawn. So much for "intelligence."