Politics
FILE - In this March 27, 2006 file photo, a Bushmaster AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and ammunition is seen at the Seattle Police headquarters in Seattle. In an effort to stem the illicit flow of weapons into Mexico, the Justice Department says gun shops in four Southwest border states will be required to alert the federal government to frequent buyers of high-powered rifles. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File) FILE - In this March 27, 2006 file photo, a Bushmaster AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and ammunition is seen at the Seattle Police headquarters in Seattle. In an effort to stem the illicit flow of weapons into Mexico, the Justice Department says gun shops in four Southwest border states will be required to alert the federal government to frequent buyers of high-powered rifles. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)  

New border gun rules a distraction from Fast and Furious scandal, Issa says

Photo of Matthew Boyle
Matthew Boyle
Investigative Reporter

The Obama administration bolstered sales-reporting requirements Monday for gun dealers in the southern border states of Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas.

Darrell Issa, House oversight committee chairman, has already criticized the new requirements as nothing more than an attempt to deflect attention from the Operation Fast and Furious scandal.

The new rules require gun dealers to report an individual who makes multiple semi-automatic weapon purchases within a five-day period.

Issa, a California Republican, blasted the administration in an interview with The Daily Caller.

“This political maneuver seems designed to protect the careers of political appointees at the Justice Department and not public safety,” Issa said. “It’s disconcerting that Justice Department officials who may have known about or tried to cover-up gunwalking in Operation Fast and Furious are continuing attempts to distract attention from clear wrongdoing.”

In a statement defending the administration’s new gun dealer reporting standards in border states, Deputy Attorney General James Cole said, “Federal, state and foreign law enforcement agencies have determined that certain types of semi-automatic rifles — greater than .22 caliber and with the ability to accept a detachable magazine — are highly sought after by dangerous drug trafficking organizations and frequently recovered at violent crime scenes near the Southwest Border.”

Cole added that he thinks the new reporting requirements will help ATF officials “detect and disrupt the illegal weapons trafficking networks responsible for diverting firearms from lawful commerce to criminals and criminal organizations.” (NLRB breaking Obama’s rule on ‘quickie’ union elections, senator says)

Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican, said documents he and Issa obtained during their investigations of Operation Fast and Furious show the administration’s new rules would do nothing to solve the problem. Grassley believes this new policy is a “distraction” from the current administration’s “reckless” decision to allow guns into the hands of drug cartels.

“We’ve learned from our investigation of Fast and Furious that reporting multiple long gun sales would do nothing to stop the flow of firearms to known straw purchasers because many Federal Firearms Dealers are already voluntarily reporting suspicious transactions,” Grassley said.

“In fact, in just the documents we’ve obtained, we are aware of 150 multiple long-gun sales associated with the ATF’s Fast and Furious case, and despite the fact that nearly all of these sales were reported in real time by cooperating gun dealers, the ATF watched the guns be transported from known straw purchasers to third parties and then let the guns walk away, often across the border,” he said.

Operation Fast and Furious and Project Gunrunner were ATF programs aimed at stopping guns from getting into the hands of criminals in Mexico.

With Operation Fast and Furious, Obama administration officials permitted “straw purchasers” to buy guns and then to sell them to Mexican drug cartels. The ultimate goal of the operation was to track the flow of arms and determine how the market functioned.

Straw purchasers legally purchase weapons in the U.S. with the known intention of later trafficking them to drug cartels. (Leaders with Ginni Thomas: John Bolton)

Issa said he’s befuddled as to how the Obama administration could think that these new reporting requirements for gun sales in southern border states would solve the problem this Justice Department has created.

“In Operation Fast and Furious, gun dealers didn’t need this regulation as they voluntarily provided ATF agents with information about suspected straw purchasers,” Issa said in an email to TheDC. “In return for this voluntary cooperation, the Justice Department betrayed them by offering false assurances that they would closely monitor sales of weapons that dealers otherwise did not want to make.”