House Majority Sides With Gun Lobbyists Over Law Enforcement

February 22, 2011 12:23 pm ET — Chris Brown

Last week, the House of Representatives voted 277 to 149 to block the Obama administration from implementing a proposed rule intended to help the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) stem the flow of weapons to Mexican cartels. The proposed rule would require gun shops near the Mexican border to report multiple sales of assault-weapons, such as AR-15s and AK-47s, to the ATF. The reporting rule has repeatedly been delayed, despite calls by U.S. law enforcement and the Mexican government to address the southbound flow of weapons. 

Since late 2006 when President Felipe Calderon took office, more than 34,000 people have been killed in a vicious and prolonged battle between the cartels and the Mexican government. More then 65,000 guns recovered in Mexico have been traced back to the United States. As the Washington Post explains:

Under the proposed rule, 8,500 gun dealers near the U.S.-Mexico border would be required to alert authorities when they sell within five consecutive business days two or more semiautomatic rifles greater than .22 caliber with detachable magazines.

Semiautomatic rifles such as AK-47s and AR-15s are favored by drug-trafficking organizations fighting the Mexican government.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) has opposed the measure, although it's unclear if the NRA's membership is in line with the organization's opposition to the rule, given that the rule would not prevent or delay any firearms purchase. The NRA has routinely pursued policies that polling shows are not supported by its membership. The NRA has also been engaged in a campaign to re-brand AR-15s and AK-47 as hunting rifles and to deny the well documented use of these weapons by Mexican cartels.

Chris W. Cox, the chief lobbyist for the NRA, said the rule is "a non-starter with the NRA," and praised efforts by the House to block the law enforcement measure. Conversely, Rep. Silvester Reyes (D-TX), a former border patrol agent, said that blocking the rule was "unconscionable":

As a former law enforcement officer, I have always been a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, but it is unconscionable to tie the hands of our federal law enforcement agencies as they are making a reasonable attempt to prevent these weapons from continuing to reach the hands of drug cartels. [...]

The violence raging in Mexico poses a serious national security risk to the United States, so we must give our law enforcement agencies all the tools necessary to strengthen our anti-trafficking efforts and help the Mexican government fight against this shared enemy.

This amendment sends the wrong message to our law enforcement officers who are risking their lives alongside their counterparts in Mexico, particularly as one of our own agents was killed in the line of duty only days ago.

By siding with gun lobbyists over law enforcement officials, 236 Republicans and 41 Democrats demonstrated that, in the halls of Congress, NRA priorities trump law enforcement needs.