Transcript: Senate Judiciary Committee Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s Q&A with Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer on Operation Fast and Furious

Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing on “Combating International Organized Crime: Evaluating Current Authorities, Tools, and Resources” held on Nov. 1, 2011

Transcript of  Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-Calif.) Q&A with Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer on Operation Fast and Furious:

Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer. IMAGE SOURCE: Judiciary.Senate.gov

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.):

“Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate that.

“Mr. Breuer, in June of this year, I received a letter from the ATF. This was in response to a letter I had asked them from Acting Director [Kenneth] Melson stating that 29,284 firearms recovered in Mexico in 2009 and 2010 and submitted to the ATF Tracing Center, with those weapons, 20,504 or 70% were United States sourced. Country of origin for the remaining firearms apparently could not be determined by the ATF, meaning that the number could be much higher. What actually is the number? Now, this was back in June. Is that the most current number? Is it fair to assume that 70% of the firearms showing up in Mexico are from the United States?”

 

Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer: 

“Thank you, Senator, for the question and for your leadership on this issue.

“You have, of course, identified the paramount issue that we have to face as we deal with transnational organized crime from the Mexican cartels.

“From my understanding, 94,000 weapons have been recovered in the last five years in Mexico. Those are just the ones recovered, Senator, not the ones that are in Mexico. 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. That’s my understanding of the most accurate numbers.”

 

Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.):

“Well, you see, this is a deep concern for me. I know others disagree but we have very lax laws when it comes to guns, and I think this to some extent influences the ATF in how they approach the problem as to whether they have political support or not. But I think these numbers are shocking. I think when you know the number of deaths these guns have caused – used by cartels against victims – it’s literally up in the tens of thousands. So the question comes: what can we do? I’d really rather concentrate on the constructive rather than other things. So then the question comes: do you believe that if there was some form of registration when you purchase these firearms that that would make a difference?”

 

Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer:

“I do, Senator.

“Senator, we’re talking today about transnational organized crime, and your leadership and the Chairman’s and other Senators shows that information is the tool we need to challenge and defeat organized crime.

“Today, Senator, we are not even permitted to have ATF receive reports about multiple sales of long guns – of any kind of semi-automatic weapon or the likes. So the ATF is unable to get that.

“Very few hunters in the United States or sports people and law-abiding people really need to have semi-automatic weapons or long guns.

“So today if I go into a dealership and I want to buy 50 or 60 semi-automatic weapons, there’s nothing that requires that to be in any way notified to ATF. Without that kind of notification, we lose track and can lose track of these kinds of potent weapons. That’s just one example of the kind of tool that I think would empower ATF and law enforcement to help fight this scourge.”

 

Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.):

“See, my concern, Mr. Chairman, is there’s been a lot said about Fast and Furious, and perhaps mistakes were made. But I think this hunt for blame doesn’t really speak about the problem. And the problem is anybody can walk in and buy anything – .50 caliber weapons, sniper weapons – buy them in large amounts and send them down to Mexico. So the question really comes: what do we do about this?

“I’ve been here 18 years. I’ve watched the ATF get beaten up at every turn of the road. Candidly, it’s just not right. I mean, we have more guns in this country than we have people. Somebody has got to come to the realization that when these guns go to the wrong places, scores of deaths result, and that’s exactly the case with the cartels.

“So you are saying today that – if I understand this – over five years in recovered weapons, there were 94,000. 64,000 of those came from the United States. So nearly over two-thirds of weapons used in Mexico by cartels are coming from the United States.”

 

Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer:

“That’s correct, Senator. And just to make a point of that. In Wide Receiver, which was a matter where the guns were permitted to go to Mexico during the prior administration in years 2006 and 2007, when my team discovered that, we decided we had to prosecute that case. Because even though years and years earlier that guns had gone to Mexico, we had to hold the people who bought those guns responsible. So we prosecuted those people, as Sen. [Chuck] Grassley pointed out.

“But it is clear that we need more tools to get those people 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.”

 

Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.):

“Last question. What would be the number one tool that would be of help to you?”

 

Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer:

“Well, I think that the number one tool would be if ATF were given the ability to know when guns are purchased.

“And frankly, I don’t know if it’s the number one tool but one of the issues we’re asking for in connection with the legislation we’re talking about today is the ability to forfeit the weapons and the inventories of gun dealers who knowingly sell their guns to criminals. If we could forfeit the guns of the dealers who we can prove knowingly are selling to criminals. We don’t want to do anything to people who are selling to law-abiding citizens, but we have to stop these dealers from selling to criminals.”

 

Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.):

“Thank you very much. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.”

 

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3 Comments on “Transcript: Senate Judiciary Committee Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s Q&A with Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer on Operation Fast and Furious

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