Democratic California Sen. Dianne Feinstein told a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that lax gun control laws, not Obama administration malfeasance within the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATF), was the real problem uncovered by Operation Fast and Furious.
“My concern, Mr. Chairman, is there’s been a lot said about Fast and Furious, and perhaps mistakes were made, but I think this hunt for blame doesn’t really speak about the problem,” Feinstein said during the Tuesday hearing. “And the problem is, anybody can walk in and buy anything, .50-caliber weapons, sniper weapons, buy them in large amounts, and send them down to Mexico. So, the question really becomes, what do we do about this?”
“I’ve been here 18 years,” Feinstein continued. “I’ve watched the BATF get beaten up at every turn on the road. And, candidly, it’s just not right.”
After the hearing, Feinstein’s staff refused to answer when The Daily Caller asked how gun control laws would have prevented the abuses in Operation Fast and Furious when the law enforcement agents responsible for upholding gun laws were the individuals giving the weapons to drug cartels.
They also refused to say whether the Sen. Feinstein wanted to hold Obama administration officials accountable for shipping guns into Mexico, for Border Patrol agent Brian Terry’s murder, or for the murders of countless Mexican citizens directly resulting from the failed gun-walking program.
When TheDC asked if Sen. Feinstein cared about the program’s connections to the murder of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent Jaime Zapata, Feinstein’s spokesman pointed to a comment she made during a March 9, 2011 hearing. Then, Feinstein did not mention any relationship between the murder and Operation Fast and Furious.
House oversight committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa recently indicated that Attorney General Eric Holder may be withholding more information about Zapata’s murder.
During Tuesday’s hearing, Sen. Feinstein advocated for Operation Fast and Furious as a springboard from which to advocate for gun control laws, including national databases and government-controlled firearms registration. She argued that such laws would prevent future programs like Fast and Furious from reaching maturity.
“So, the question comes, what can we do?,” Feinstein asked Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, a hearing witness. “And, I’d really rather concentrate on the constructive, rather than other things, so the questions comes: Do you believe that, if there were some form of registration when you purchase these firearms, that that would make a difference?”
Breuer, a high-ranking Obama administration official who is notable for his willingness to accept some responsibility for the scandal, said it would.
“Senator, we’re talking today about transnational organized crime,” Breuer said, ”and your leadership, and the chairman’s, and other senators’ shows that information — information — is the tool we need to challenge and defeat organized crime.”
“I know others disagree,” Feinstein added, “but we have very lax laws when it comes to guns and I think, to some extent, this influences BATF as to whether they have political support or not,” Feinstein said. “But, I think these numbers are shocking — and when you know the number of deaths these guns have caused, used by cartels against victims, it’s literally up in the tens of thousands.”
According to the Obama administration’s BATF, 70 percent of weapons recovered in Mexico come from the United States. Feinstein insisted those numbers are a “very deep concern for me.”
Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican, contested the weapons-trafficking statistics Feinstein and Breuer cited, arguing that they appear to make the U.S. appear to be a more rampant source of illicit firearms than is actually the case. Grassley has been challenging those statistics since June, when he wrote a letter to then-acting BATF director Ken Melson.
“I am concerned that the selective release of certain statistical data without further clarification and categorization may inaccurately reflect the scope and source of the problem of firearms in Mexico and the DTO [drug trafficking organization] violence,” Grassley wrote to Melson in June.
At least 29 members of Congress have now called on Attorney General Eric Holder to resign over Operation Fast and Furious. With a Tuesday tweet, North Carolina Rep. Walter Jones became the latest, writing: “It’s time for Eric Holder to go!”