In all the ranting against Attorney General Eric Holder over the misguided "Operation Fast and Furious," the scent of hypocrisy is hard to avoid. Holder's toughest critics in Congress are prepared to do nothing about the gun trafficking problem that led to "Fast and Furious" in the first place.
Holder himself has said that "Fast and Furious was "fundamentally flawed". Such flawed enforcement tactics, however, are the direct result of Congressional failure to give the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives the leadership and authority it needs to do its job well.
It is inexcusable that ATF has not had a permanent director since Congress made that position subject to Congressional confirmation in 2006. President Obama's nomination of Andrew Traver continues to be stalled in the Senate. The heavy hand of the gun lobby is clearly at work here; the NRA wants ATF to be saddled with a succession of weak leaders with no real mandate. Questionable tactics like "Fast and Furious" are the unsurprising result.
Second, Holder's critics go to great lengths to avoid noticing the obvious: the Mexican trafficking problem itself is largely the product of our grievously weak federal gun laws. In recent years more than 60,000 guns, mostly semi-automatic assault rifles, have moved from American gun dealers to the Mexican cartels. Countless cases have documented "straw buyers" for gun traffickers purchasing large numbers of assault rifles from border state gun shops. If dealer sales of assault rifles were restricted, as they were for 10 years until 2004 when Congress and President Bush allowed the federal assault weapon ban to expire, it would not be necessary for law enforcement to track down the guns after they leave the gun shop.
The Attorney General's most severe critics even oppose the new ATF rule requiring real-time reporting to ATF when border state dealers sell multiple semi-automatic rifles to a single buyer, a red flag for trafficking. The same members of Congress who denounce ATF for failing to stop trafficked guns from crossing the border into Mexico also oppose a rule that would give ATF the information it needs to arrest the traffickers and interdict the guns, before they get to the border.
If anyone should lose their jobs, it should be those in Congress who'd rather pander to the gun lobby than pass laws to curb gun trafficking. Perhaps,then, both American and Mexican families can live in peace.
About Dennis A. Henigan Acting President of the Brady Campaign
Judson Phillips Founder of Tea Party Nation
Lara Brown Professor at Villanova University