Bob Unruh joined WND in 2006 after nearly three decades with the Associated Press, as well as several Upper Midwest newspapers, where he covered everything from legislative battles and sports to tornadoes and homicidal survivalists. He is also a photographer whose scenic work has been used commercially.More ↓Less ↑
But what if, asks a spokesman with the Second Amendment Foundation, the paperwork was the goal of the “Operation Fast and Furious” debacle by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives?
The ATF sting operation, in an attempt to build a case against Mexican criminal organizations, allowed at least 2,000 illegal weapons to be purchased in the United States and taken across the southern border so they could be traced.
The program disintegrated last year after it was revealed that two of the weapons were found at the scene of a murdered U.S. Border Patrol agent. At least 150 shootings have been linked to the weapons.
On Sunday, the New York Times attacked U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who is leading congressional inquiries into the controversy, claiming his business interests are profiting from his public position. Yesterday it was reported that three ATF officials involved in the fiasco were promoted from the American Southwest to positions in Washington.
Amid those developments comes the ATF’s announcement that all gun dealers in New Mexico, Arizona, California and Texas are being ordered to provide additional documents for each gun purchase.
The government ordered: “You must submit to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) reports of multiple sales or other dispositions whenever, at one time or during any five consecutive business days, you sell or otherwise dispose of two or more semi-automatic rifles capable of accepting a detachable magazine and with a caliber greater that (sic) .22 (including .223/5.56) to an unlicensed person. You are required to report all such sales that occur on or after August 14, 2011. You must continue reporting multiple sales for the rifles subject to this demand letter until we provide written notice to stop.”
The letter drew outrage from the NRA, which filed complaints in Washington, D.C., New Mexico and Texas over the issue.
“This is a bait-and-switch scheme by an administration and a bureau frantically trying to distract lawmakers and the general public from the deadly ‘Fast and Furious’ debacle,” said NRA spokesman Chris W. Cox.
“This is a serious problem with deadly consequences, yet the Obama administration wants you to believe it can deter $40 billion transnational criminal enterprises by imposing paperwork requirements on honest American firearms dealers.”
Other critics said the attack on Issa and the transfer of ATF workers also were meant as distractions from the issue at hand – the decision by the federal government to allow the purchases of illegal weapons.
Reporting requirements were goal?
However, Dave Workman, senior editor at the Second Amendment Foundation-related The New Gun Week, told WND that the paperwork may have been the goal all along.
“There is a very strong belief in the firearms community, and you can quote this, that Project Gunrunner and in particular Operation Fast and Furious was allowed to go haywire just so the Obama administration could institute these reporting requirements,” he said.
Such “reporting” requirements always seem to be a first step to gun registration or gun ban efforts, he noted.
Advocates of gun restrictions have taken several major blows in the U.S. Supreme Court in the last few years – including the Heller decision on Washington, D.C.’s handgun law and the McDonald decision regarding a Chicago law. In Heller, the court ruled that the 2nd Amendment protects an individual civil right and is not just intended for the creation of state “militias.” The McDonald decision said the amendment applies to individuals in states across the land.
“There are quite a few people who believe the reporting requirements are a backdoor approach to firearms registration,” Workman told WND.
He said the attempt to create the additional restrictions in the four southwestern states is being made because of the history of gun operations on that region.
Workman said the move might have been what Obama was noting when he told an anti-gun organization that he was working “under the radar” on some issues.
They include William G. McMahon, the ATF’s deputy director of operations in the region; William D. Newell, a field supervisor who coordinated the program; and David Voth, another field supervisor.
McMahon was named on Sunday as deputy assistant director in the agency’s office of professional responsibility; Newell was named special assistant to the assistant director in the agency’s office of management; and Voth became branch chief for the ATF’s tobacco division in Washington.
Meanwhile, the New York Times blasted Issa in a front-page article that accused him of profiting financially from his decisions in Washington.
Issa’s office yesterday responded with a detailed rebuttal of reporter Eric Lichtblau’s piece.
“The New York Times story, citing the medical plaza and federal funds Rep. Issa secured for his congressional district states, ‘the value of the medical complex and other properties has soared, at least in part because of the government-sponsored road work.’ The story alleges that Rep. Issa’s 2008 purchase of ‘a medical plaza’ for $10.3 million is now assessed by San Diego County ‘at $16 million – a 60 percent appreciation,” said a statement from Issa’s office.
“This, however, is false,” the statement continued.
“According to the final settlement statement of the medical plaza property, the purchase price paid by Rep. Issa’s company for the property was $16.6 million. This figure, $16.6 million, is essentially identical to its current tax assessment and wipes out the 60 percent appreciation the New York Times story alleges Rep. Issa’s commercial property enjoyed.”
Toppling 70 years of social thinking
Workman wrote in The New Gun Week that evidence suggests that as early as January 2010, ATF officials knew that guns from their control were showing up in Mexico, yet “did nothing” about it.
The operation was allowed to continue until after the death of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry, officials said.
Workman said the idea of additional restrictions being the goal is reasonable in light of the Supreme Court rulings that favored gun rights.
Those decisions, he said, “toppled almost 70 years of social thinking.”
SAF’s vice president, Alan Gottlieb, has said the problem was created by the federal agency, and now dealers are being put in the spotlight.
“Trying to thwart gun running is what the new regulation is purportedly all about, but it appears ATF is largely responsible for creating a problem they now want to solve by penalizing gun dealers and buyers with more paperwork,” he said.
He said in light of the fact that only some dealers across the nation are being put under the new demands, “ATF’s authority for requiring such information is questionable.
“Instead of the agency expanding its powers, right now – in the wake of the Fast and Furious scandal – ATF should be reined in by Congress,” he said.