Justice Department issues stricter gun reporting rules to curb flow of U.S. weapons into Mexico
The Justice Department has announced stricter gun reporting requirements in four states sharing borders with Mexico as the agency faces mounting criticisms and public scrutiny over its handling of Operation Fast and Furious.
The Justice Department will require all licensed gun dealers in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas to report any buyer who purchases high-powered weapons – such as the .22 caliber rifles with detachable magazines – more than once within a five-day period.
“This new reporting measure…will improve the ability of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to detect and disrupt the illegal weapons trafficking” into Mexico, said Deputy Attorney General James Cole. “These targeted information requests will occur in Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas to help confront the problem of illegal gun trafficking into Mexico and along the Southwest Border.”
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, criticized the DOJ’s new firearms reporting rules. “The administration’s continued overreach with regulations continues, and is a distraction from its reckless policy to allow guns to walk into Mexico,” said Grassley, who is leading the congressional investigation into Operation Fast and Furious.
The announcement came a week after ATF Director Kenneth Melson told congressional investigators that the Justice Department withheld crucial information that could have prevented the ill-conceived Operation Fast and Furious.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee are investigating whether the Justice Department and ATF intentionally allowed high-powered weapons purchased in Arizona to be smuggled into Mexico between 2009 and 2010. Many of the 2,000 weapons tracked during Operation Fast and Furious were sold to Mexican drug cartels.
During Operation Fast and Furious, Phoenix ATF agents were ordered to allow guns bought by “straw purchasers” to “walk” across the border while the U.S. Attorney’s office in Arizona built cases against the weapon traffickers. However, Melson’s interview with congressional investigators revealed that many of the trafficking “higher ups” targeted by Fast and Furious were already known to the FBI and DEA, and some may have been paid as informants by the agencies; that information, Melson alleged, was not disclosed to the ATF.
The shooting death of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in December 2010 marked the beginning of the end of Operation Fast and Furious. Terry was shot and killed in a gunfight with smugglers near Rio Rico, Ariz. The weapons found at the scene were later traced back to Operation Fast and Furious.
Since June, Terry’s family and several Phoenix ATF agents previously involved with Operation Fast and Furious have testified before the Committee on Government Oversight and Reforms. Click below to read their testimonies:
- Robert Heyer’s testimony on behalf of the family of slain Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry (June 15, 2011)
- ATF Special Agent John Dodson’s testimony before the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (June 15, 2011)
- ATF Special Agent Olindo James Casa’s testimony before the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (June 15, 2011)
- ATF Special Agent Peter Forcelli’s testimony before the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (June 15, 2011)
- Department of Justice: Statement of Deputy Attorney General James Cole Regarding Information Requests for Multiple Sales of Semi-Automatic Rifles with Detachable Magazines
- Sen. Chuck Grassley’s statement on the new reporting requirements for federal firearms licensees on the southwest border
- WhatTheFolly.com: ATF Director accuses DEA, FBI & Justice Department of withholding key information during Operation Fast & Furious
- Committee on Oversight & Government Reform: The Department of Justice’s Operation Fast & Furious: Accounts of ATF Agents joint staff report released June 14, 2011 (PDF)