Sen. McCain Breaks Ranks, Calls For Stronger Gun Laws After Fast And Furious

September 01, 2011 4:27 pm ET — Matt Gertz

Senator John McCain

Asked yesterday at a town hall meeting about the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives' failed Operation Fast and Furious, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) responded in part by highlighting the weakness of federal laws that allow gun trafficking to take place:

"The American people need a full and complete accounting of what took place. People should be held responsible, but also we have to make sure that something like this never happens again. It should not be so easy for these people to come and buy these weapons in the United States and send them down to Mexico."

While he supports making it harder for cartels to obtain American weapons, McCain was quick to tout his support for gun rights.

"I am a staunch advocate of the second amendment — don't get me wrong I have a perfect record from the NRA — but we need to do what we can to make sure someone can't come to a gun show or some place and exploit a loophole."

McCain's comments fly in the face of the responses of the Republican members of Congress who are investigating Operation Fast and Furious. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) slammed a new regulation favored by law enforcement that would require firearms dealers to report sales of multiple long guns. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) also criticized the new rule, and used his position as chairman of the House Oversight Committee to try to halt testimony on the weak gun laws the ATF tries to enforce.

As Political Correction has noted, law enforcement officials face what the Los Angeles Times calls an "impossible mission": They are forced to rely on statutes that carry low penalties in their investigation of these cases because there is no federal firearms trafficking statute.

As McCain points out, the ability of traffickers to buy firearms at gun shows without being subject to background checks also impairs efforts to keep U.S. guns out of the hands of Mexican cartels — as well as al Qaeda terrorists.