Investigations Into BATFE Accelerate

Posted on March 25, 2011

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As the BATFE faces an increasing array of questions about its activities in the "Fast and Furious" and "Project Gunrunner" programs, the scandal has taken its first political casualty and President Obama has finally commented directly on these problems.

On March 20, the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Carlos Pascual, resigned amid increasing criticisms from Mexican government officials. It was reported that the "Gun Runner" scandal was the last straw for President Felipe Calderon, who has said publicly that he does not trust Pascual.

When questioned by the media during his recent tour of South and Central America, President Obama claimed that neither he nor Attorney General Eric Holder had approved the investigations that led to hundreds and possibly thousands of firearms ending up in the hands of Mexican criminal cartels. Obama said, "There may be a situation here which [sic] a serious mistake was made" and went on to promise to find out and to hold those responsible accountable.

Congress is not waiting on the President, however, and there are now plans for investigations and hearings by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.  Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), along with other members of the committee, urged Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) to conduct hearings, which Issa agreed to do. Chairman Issa has contacted BATFE Deputy Director Kenneth Melson and demanded his agency provide details about both "Fast and Furious" and "Project Gunrunner." Please click here to read that letter.

In addition, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who has been a leading critic of these BATFE investigations, has again called for more answers, saying his requests for more information have been "stonewalled" by the Obama Administration. Grassley, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee,  is now expanding his inquiries to include requests for information from Customs and Border Protection regarding gun trafficking in New Mexico. "No longer can this administration stand idly by and answer every question by saying that the Justice Department Inspector General is investigating," Grassley wrote. "There is too much at stake." Please click here to read Sen. Grassley's release dated March 24th and to find links to his letters to administration officials.

As the BATFE continues to petition for the authority to collect more data on sales of firearms, the growing scandal that has resulted from these two investigative programs raises serious questions about BATFE's procedures and its ability to effectively carry out its duties. The NRA fully supports the actions of Chairman Issa, Rep. Labrador and members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to fully uncover the extent of the mistakes and the damage caused by BATFE's mismanagement of these investigations.

On March 9, NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris W. Cox sent letters to key leaders in Congress calling for hearings to examine the firearms trafficking investigations tactics employed by the BATFE.

Last month, the U.S. House of Representatives adopted an amendment to H.R. 1 offered by Reps. Denny Rehberg (R-MT) and Dan Boren (D-OK) that prohibits the use of federal funds for a new and unauthorized multiple sales reporting scheme proposed by the BATFE.  The measure passed the chamber (277-149) with broad bipartisan support.

This week, the NRA-ILA sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner asking Congress to preserve the Boren-Rehberg amendment in the Continuing Resolution relating to federal government funding.  Please click here to read the letter.

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