Gun Laws & Legislation
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)  

Obama threatens to veto DOJ budget because it blocks Fast and Furious gun control law

Photo of Matthew Boyle
Matthew Boyle
Investigative Reporter

President Barack Obama has threatened to veto a Department of Justice appropriations bill House Republicans passed because, among other things, it includes a provision that blocks a gun control rule passed in the wake of Operation Fast and Furious.

The Obama administration’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives wrote, and began implementing, a new rule that would require gun dealers in the four U.S. states that border Mexico to report sales of multiple semi-automatic rifles to the ATF.

In the 2013 fiscal year budget for the Department of Justice and related agencies, House Republicans inserted a rider, or condition, that would force the ATF to not implement that rule.Several House Republicans have charged that the Obama administration had an anti-gun agenda when it carried out Fast and Furious, and are particularly wary of Attorney General Eric Holder, who once expressed the need to “brainwash” the American people into disliking firearm ownership.

In a statement the White House released upon receiving the House appropriations bill, the administration threatened it would veto the legislation because of that ATF rider, among other things.

In the statement, the White House called that rider blocking the ATF rule’s implementation one of the few it “strongly opposes” because the Obama administration thinks it represents “problematic policy and language riders that have no place in funding legislation.”

They cite emails CBS News acquired in December, in which lead Fast and Furious Agent Bill Newell and ATF Field Operations Assistant Director Mark Chait discussed how to use the scandal’s aftermath to promote the long-gun reporting requirement for multiple sales.

“ATF officials didn’t intend to publicly disclose their own role in letting Mexican cartels obtain the weapons, but emails show they discussed using the sales, including sales encouraged by ATF, to justify a new gun regulation called ‘Demand Letter 3,’” CBS News’ Sharyl Attkisson reported in December. “That would require some U.S. gun shops to report the sale of multiple rifles or ‘long guns.’ Demand Letter 3 was so-named because it would be the third ATF program demanding gun dealers report tracing information.” (VIDEO: Chaffetz to Dems on Fast and Furious: Have ‘guts’ to take on Holder)

Democratic politicians have also invoked Fast and Furious when pushing for stricter gun control laws. During an early November 2011 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein tried to leverage the crisis to push for anti-gun regulations.

“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 a Nov. 1 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.”

During that hearing, Feinstein advocated for using Operation Fast and Furious as a springboard from which to advocate for strict gun control laws, including national databases and government-controlled firearms registration. She argued that new laws could prevent future programs like Fast and Furious from reaching maturity.

Follow Matthew on Twitter