- The Washington Times - Friday, April 29, 2011

The Obama administration on Friday renewed its proposal to force gun dealers in four southwest border states to register multiple firearms sales. According to its filing in the Federal Register, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) wants to create detailed records of whenever anyone attempts to purchase more than one semi-automatic rifle in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas. The registry scheme highlights Department of Justice (DOJ) hypocrisy on the gun issue.

DOJ claims information on law-abiding gun owners might help prevent Mexican drug cartels from obtaining American weapons. At the same time, DOJ and ATF are actively resisting a subpoena from a congressional committee demanding information regarding the ATF’s own role in promoting actual sales of guns to drug lords. One of these weapons was reportedly used in a December ambush that claimed the life of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. To date, Justice has allowed House Oversight and Government Reform staff to view a handful of redacted papers, but an April 8 letter from DOJ’s legislative affairs office claimed the rest of the material was confidential and wouldn’t be released because it was related to ongoing criminal investigations.

Lawmakers are far from satisfied. “They have not complied with the terms of the subpoena,” committee spokesman Becca Watkins told The Washington Times. “We’ve basically been stonewalled.” The committee sent its own team of investigators to Arizona to look into the matter directly, and their findings are likely to guide the response to DOJ’s recalcitrance.

The committee and Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, want to know the genesis of ATF’s “Project Gunrunner” where straw buyers were intentionally allowed to make illegal gun purchases in the United States and smuggle the items into Mexico. ATF wanted to follow the guns to the cartel leadership, but this usually meant finding the guns after they had been used in a crime. Gun-store owners suspicious about certain sales were apparently told by the feds to proceed.

The Obama administration’s position in effect is that nobody can investigate the Justice Department - not even Congress. The public is supposed to believe an internal review will make an honest determination of whether the gunrunning scheme was a good idea or not. Instead of providing transparency, the White House is exploiting the Mexican gun issue for political purposes. “We’re also doing more to stem the southbound flow of guns into the region,” President Obama said in Santiago, Chile, on March 21. “We’re seizing many more guns bound for Mexico and we’re putting more gunrunners behind bars. And every gun or gunrunner that we take off the streets is one less threat to the families and communities of the Americas.”

The Democrats’ propaganda is supposed to make us think the availability of guns in the United States is the problem, and that gun control is the natural solution. That’s why it’s important to get to the bottom of the question of how many of those “guns bound for Mexico” were sent with the ATF’s stamp of approval. Most of the military weapons used by narcotics traffickers in Mexico come from the Mexican army, but registration measures are easier to ram through by demonizing U.S. dealers.

Congress needs to torpedo the misguided ATF paperwork proposal. In February, the House voted 277-149 on an amendment to block implementation, but the Senate killed the underlying bill. The legislative effort should be revived before the public comment period expires at the end of the month.