AG Holder: Congress Must Address "Public Safety Crisis" Of Gun Trafficking

November 08, 2011 10:58 am ET — Matt Gertz

During this morning's testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Attorney General Eric Holder said that while he shares Congress' concerns over the ATF's failed Operation Fast and Furious, "we must be careful not to lose sight of the critical problem that this flawed investigation has highlighted: We are losing the battle to stop the flow of illegal guns to Mexico." 

Holder pointed out that in testimony before the House Oversight Committee earlier this year, the very ATF whistleblowers who revealed Fast and Furious also pointed out the weak gun laws that prevent them from stopping gun trafficking to Mexico. Holder urged Congress to "work with us to provide ATF with the resources and statutory tools it needs to be effective," and criticized the House of Representatives for voting to block the Obama administration from implementing a proposed rule that 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.

HOLDER: Like each of you, I want to know why and how firearms that should have been under surveillance could wind up in the hands of Mexican drug cartels. But beyond identifying where errors occurred and ensuring that they never occur again, we must be careful not to lose sight of the critical problem that this flawed investigation has highlighted: we are losing the battle to stop the flow of illegal guns to Mexico. That means we have a responsibility to act. And, we can start by listening to the agents who serve on the front lines of this battle. Not only did they bring the inappropriate and misguided tactics of Operation Fast and Furious to light, they also sounded the alarm to Congress that they need our help. 

ATF agents who testified before a House committee this summer explained that the agency's ability to stem the flow of guns from the United States into Mexico suffers from a lack of effective enforcement tools. One critical first step should be for Congressional leaders to work with us to provide ATF with the resources and statutory tools it needs to be effectiveAnother would be for Congress to fully fund our request for teams of agents to fight gun trafficking. Unfortunately, earlier this year the House of Representatives actually voted to keep law enforcement in the dark when individuals purchase multiple semi-automatic rifles and shotguns in Southwest border gun shops. Providing law enforcement with the tools to detect and disrupt illegal gun trafficking is entirely consistent with the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens and it is critical to addressing the public safety crisis on the Southwest border.

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The primary Republican investigators of Fast and Furious, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), have joined the National Rifle Association in standing against providing ATF with these needed tools. 

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