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Double-Standards in D.C.

Friday, October 11, 2013

As most Americans know, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives--and perhaps others in the Obama administration--knowingly allowed guns to be smuggled from the United States to Mexican drug-smuggling cartels, on the hope that the guns would be recovered at Mexican crimes scenes and eventually traced to sales in the United States. The goal of the effort, dubbed Operation Fast and Furious, was to give anti-gun politicians evidence to use in their campaigns against general-purpose semi-automatic rifles, such as the hugely popular AR-15.  As for the carnage that might precede the guns' recovery?  That was obviously a risk the planners of the operation were willing to take. 

Some of the smuggled guns were indeed used to kill people in Mexico, but one was also involved in the murder of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. An investigation ensued, the House of Representatives voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt for refusing to cooperate with its investigation of the scandal, and senior officials associated with the scandal were forced to resign.

Commonsense would dictate that to regain the public's trust, the BATFE should accept responsibility for its failures and be more transparent with the public. However, as John Solomon reported in Monday's Washington Times, the agency is still in information-suppression mode, "blocking the main whistleblower in the Fast and Furious case from publishing a book for pay, claiming his retelling of the Mexico 'gun‑walking' scandal will hurt morale inside the embattled law enforcement agency." In a letter to the whistleblower, Agent John Dodson, BATFE said that if he publishes his book, it "would have a negative impact on morale in the Phoenix [BATFE office] and would have a detremental [sic] effect on our relationships with [the Drug Enforcement Administration] and FBI."

Dodson is not alone in his fight. On Tuesday, the ACLU sent a letter to the BATFE, stating that preventing Dodson from publishing his book violates his First Amendment rights. BATFE's decision, ACLU attorney Rita Cant wrote, "undermines the importance that whistleblowers and public employee speech play in revealing wrongdoing and contributing to public debate."

It's not an encouraging start to the tenure of the agency's new director, B. Todd Jones.

Meanwhile, evidence has been uncovered that the District of Columbia and Philadelphia police departments provided firearms to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to help her promote her "assault weapon" ban legislation in January, but that D.C. police denied a request from Senators Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) for firearms to be used in their presentations opposing the ban.

The evidence was uncovered by a Freedom of Information Act request filed by tenacious Washington Times reporter Emily Miller, author of the new book, "Emily Gets Her Gun," which details the grueling process she went through to legally take possession of her handgun following the Supreme Court's decision in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) that struck down the city's 32-year-old handgun ban as a violation of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

As Miller reported on Wednesday, however, it didn't take long for D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier to arrange for multiple firearms to be provided to Feinstein, whose legislation would have banned almost every detachable-magazine semi-automatic rifle, and almost every semi-automatic shotgun, as well as other categories of firearms.

The sordid tale appears to have begun when Feinstein's office asked D.C. police to provide an AR-15 and several other semi-automatics for her press conference promoting her new ban. Lanier agreed, with one stipulation:  "Chief Lanier wanted to help Mrs. Feinstein, but she didn't want the media to know," Miller wrote. Feinstein's office was told that the police would "prefer that no mention of the fact that the weapons came from D.C. or were recovered by [Metro Police] in [Feinstein's] official language or speeches."

Feinstein's and Lanier's secret began to see daylight when the Senate Sergeant at Arms told Miller that the firearms Feinstein used in her presentation had come from the D.C. and Philadelphia police departments. Miller's FOIA request thereafter produced a communication from Lanier to Philadelphia police chief Charles Ramsey, lamenting the fact that Miller had found out about Lanier's cooperation with Feinstein. "This is exactly why I didn't want to participate," Lanier said, adding, "We will not participate again." Lanier also separately complained to the lobbyist who helped Feinstein's office obtain the firearms, saying "So much for our agreement [to keep things quiet]. Unfortunately this will be the next tail wagging our dog for weeks."

However, as Miller details, when Senators Cruz and Graham asked to bring two rifles to the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Feinstein's gun-ban proposal, they were denied. Cruz was thus limited to a photograph of a rifle, which motivated a Feinstein staffer to write D.C. police, stating, "I was gratified to hear Sens. Cruz and Graham complaining that getting weapons into their hearing today was 'unworkable.'"

Fortunately, Lanier's deck-stacking in favor of Feinstein was not enough for the Senate's most fanatical gun-prohibitionist to prevail. Feinstein's legislation was defeated by a wide margin. We can only hope that, with her bias in this episode having been revealed, Lanier will perform her duties in a more even-handed, less-biased manner when handling requests from members of Congress in the future.

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