Assistant AG Breuer's Testimony Addresses Weak Gun Laws

November 01, 2011 5:03 pm ET — Chris Brown

Today, Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer testified before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee about law enforcement responses to transnational organized crime. Breuer's testimony mostly concerned his knowledge of and response to the Bush-era Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) operation Wide Receiver. Like the much discussed Operation Fast and Furious, Wide Receiver involved letting guns "walk."

But Breuer also touched on the rarely-discussed topic of how weak U.S. gun laws are undermining enforcement efforts to stop the flow of illegal guns to Mexico beyond the flaws in either ATF operation.

From Breuer's testimony:

BREUER: From my understanding, 94,000 weapons have been recovered in the last 5 years in Mexico. Those are just the ones recovered, Senator [Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)], not the ones that are in Mexico, and of the 94,000 weapons that have been recovered in Mexico, 64,000 of those are traced to the United States. We have to do something to prevent criminals from getting those guns, Senator.

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Later Breuer testified that stopping guns from going to Mexico needs to be a priority whether not controversial tactics are involved in an investigation.

BREUER: It is clear that we need more tools to get those people to who are buying the guns and illegally transporting them to Mexico. We cannot permit the guns to go knowingly and we cannot permit the guns to go unknowingly. We need to stop the flow.

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Mirroring a trend seen all this year, Ranking Member Charles Grassley (R-IA) focused only on the controversial tactics used by the ATF, while ignoring the broader issue of gun trafficking to Mexico. When it doesn't lead to a possible attack against President Obama, gun trafficking isn't on the agenda for Republicans.

The inconsistent concern about gun trafficking is evident in House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa's (R-CA) ongoing investigation of Fast and Furious. Issa has refused to hold hearings on combating the flow of guns going to Mexico. When Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) did hold a minority hearing investigating America's gun laws and gun trafficking to Mexico, Issa attacked the hearing.

Issa even took the extreme step of trying to shut down testimony about weak gun laws from ATF agent and Fast and Furious whistleblower Peter Forcelli, whom Issa had called upon to testify before the House Oversight Committee.

In February, all but two House Republicans and 41 Democrats voted against requiring gun dealers along the border to report multiple sales of certain rifles known to be cartel favorites. The rule would allow the ATF to become aware of and respond quickly to any suspiciously large purchase of AK-47s or other powerful rifles. Forcelli has called the reporting rule a "huge tool" in the fight against gun trafficking.

Even Issa's own investigation of Fast and Furious has been undermined by America's weak guns laws. Since at least this summer, Issa has been seeking trace data on the guns trafficked in Fast and Furious, but that type of gun trace data can't be released by the ATF because of a NRA-backed law called the Tiahrt Amendment. Issa supports the Tiahrt Amendment and in 2006 sought to make it permanent, with violations of the law punishable by up to five years in prison.

The only time Republicans have shown any interest in U.S. guns going to Mexico has been when they've recycled gun lobby distortions suggesting cartel guns come from any country but the United States.

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