Two U.S. law enforcement officers are dead and a third seriously wounded in two separate incidents; one occurred in Arizona, the other in central Mexico, north of Mexico City.

In one case the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or ATF, had knowingly allowed the guns used to be sold to a suspected arms trafficker and smuggled to Mexico. In the other case, ATF claims the traffickers only came to their attention some months after they had purchased the gun involved in the attack.

As reported in this column back in January, Border patrol Agent Brian Terry was gunned down in a firefight with bandits North of Nogales, Ariz., on December 14, 2010. It has now been confirmed that two AK-47 style rifles recovered at the scene were among hundreds – possibly thousands of rifles – allowed by ATF to “walk” from U.S. dealers’ shelves into the hands of known and suspected firearms traffickers and across the border into the service of Mexican drug gangs.

On February 15, 2011, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Special Agents Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila were attacked near the Mexican town of San Luis Potosi. Agent Zapata was killed and Agent Avila was seriously wounded.

One of the guns used in the attack has been tracked back to a Dallas-area gun dealer who sold the gun to one of a pair of brothers named Osorio. ATF and DEA agents had the Orsorio brothers under surveillance as early as last November. ATF tracked purchases of numerous firearms from a variety of sources by the brothers during that time, including one batch of 40 guns, which they sold to an ATF informant who made it clear to them that he was trafficking them into Mexico. ATF says their informant was subsequently stopped and searched before crossing the border and that the guns were recovered.

Given ATF’s history of withholding and/or embellishing pertinent information, it is likely that the Osario brothers were on the ATF radar long before November 2010. They certainly should have been. The story of ATF’s paid informant being stopped at the border is also suspect, given ATF’s admitted strategy of allowing guns to cross the border in hopes of connecting them to some high-ranking drug lord.

While ATF and politicians have tried to spin the tragic deaths of these two federal agents as proof of the need for stricter gun-control laws in the U.S., mounting evidence indicates that the largest arms trafficker from the U.S. into Mexico is the ATF itself.

ATF and the administration have been insisting that licensed firearms dealers in border states should be required to submit reports to ATF whenever anyone purchases more than one semi-auto rifle within a 5-day period, and they point to these tragic murders as proof that such a reporting requirement is needed.

In their arguments they conveniently leave out the fact that agents Zapata and Avila were shot with a pistol and that pistols are already under a multiple sale reporting requirement.

Any discussion of the tragic, in-the-line-of-duty deaths of these two federal law enforcement officers should note that neither was able to effectively return fire. Mexico does not permit U.S. agents to carry firearms when they work in Mexico, so Special Agents Zapata and Avila were unarmed at the time they were attacked.

Contrary to what President Obama recently stated, U.S. agents do engage in law enforcement activities in Mexico. They do not just serve as advisors. While they do not actually make arrests, they do participate in every phase of investigations and arrest operations. And they do it unarmed, thanks to a policy of the Mexican government that Obama and company seem content with.

On this side of the border, political correctness and concern for “innocent migrants” possibly being injured while illegally crossing the border has devolved into rules of engagement that require Border Patrol Agents to use only “less lethal” weapons unless they are fired upon first. Those rules meant that Agent Brian Terry was armed with a “beanbag” gun at the time he was killed.

Compare those rules of engagement to those established for the assault on Ruby Ridge in 1992 when snipers were given a green light to kill any armed adult, whether they acted in a threatening manner or not. Those rules resulted in the death of Vicki Weaver and the wounding of Randy Weaver and Kevin Harris.

The Justice Department has announced an investigation into ATF’s Project Gunrunner policies and tactics to see if they are reasonable. The Mexican government is at last questioning why they had to learn from Internet blogs such as David Codrea’s “War on Guns” about ATF’s intentionally allowing guns to be bought and smuggled into Mexico and seems poised to issue a formal complaint even as Attorney General Holder seems prepared to sweep the whole thing under the rug.

Since this whole mess came to light, only Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, has been active in seeking answers from ATF. Conspicuous by their absence on this issue have been the nation’s leading rights organization, NRA, and chairman of the powerful Senate Government Oversight Committee, Darrel Issa, R-Calif. Only pressure from constituents is likely to bring either of those heavy hitters into the fray. It’s worth a call or letter to your elected servants – both in the government and in the NRA – to suggest that they get involved.

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