Covering Mexican President’s Speech—A Failure to Fact Check
A report from Reuters “Calderon urges U.S. to reinstate assault weapons ban,” edited by Cynthia Osterman and posted on May 20 contains both factual errors and careless omissions that misrepresent the challenges of border security and immigration enforcement.
The article quoted Mexican President Felipe Calderon as stating his country had “seized around 75,000 guns and assault weapons in the last three years, Calderon said. He said more than 80 percent of them came from the United States and noted there were more than 7,000 gun shops along the border.” This quote admitted an important qualifier which the president himself noted in his speech, nor did the article note that the White House did not have an accurate translation of his remarks.
According to a Government Accountability Office report 87 percent of the weapons seized by Mexican authorities from 2004-2008 whose registry could be traced came from the United States. That number represents approximately only one quarter to one third of the weapons seized. Additionally, most on the “assault guns” did not come from the United States. Furthermore, “military-like” weapons such as heavy machine guns did not come from the United States. Heritage Latin American Ray Walser concluded, “Throughout 2009, leaders on both sides of the border made unsubstantiated statements blaming lax U.S. gun regulation for both the increase in deaths and the growing lethality of drug violence in Mexico.” Thus, even if the United States re-imposed a nation-wide ban on assault weapons, as President Calderon requested in his remarks, such a measure would have minimal impact on reducing the heavy weapons in the hands of the Mexican criminal cartels.
The article also stated that “Calderon repeated his opposition to a new Arizona law that requires police to check the immigration status of anyone they suspect is in the country illegally.” This statement misconstrues what the law requires. The law actually directs that, “when law enforcement officers engage in a lawful stop, detention, or arrest, a reasonable attempt shall be made, when practicable, to ask about a person’s legal status if reasonable suspicion exists that the person is unlawfully present in the U.S.”