A report issued earlier this week by Sen. Charles R. Grassley (R-IA) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) accused the Justice Department of allowing nearly 2,500 guns to flow illegally into Mexico as part of an operation dubbed “Fast and Furious” that has been the centerpiece of hearings, continuing today, before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the trade association for the firearms industry, has been closely following the congressional investigation into Operation Fast and Furious. According to the congressional report, firearms were allowed to be illegally smuggled (“walked”) into Mexico. The report also indicates that ATF requested federally licensed firearms retailers in Arizona who were cooperating in this investigation to permit these transactions to occur, even though a number of them expressed reservations and concerns to ATF. These allegations, if true, are serious and troubling.
At a March 10 congressional hearing, Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. said, “We cannot have a situation where guns are allowed to walk, and I’ve made that clear to the U.S. Attorney as well as the agents in charge of various ATF offices.” Attorney General Holder has ordered the Acting Inspector General of the Department of Justice to conduct a thorough investigation into this matter. NSSF supports the call for a thorough investigation. Acting ATF Director Kenneth Melson has also announced his intention to form a multi-disciplinary panel of law enforcement professionals to review ATF’s current firearms trafficking strategies. We believe such a review is appropriate, and it is important to refrain from prematurely drawing any conclusions or making assumptions about this matter until the investigation is complete and all the facts are known.
Earlier this year, President Obama, in a joint appearance with Mexican President Calderon, noted the need to address the role that straw purchasing plays in illegal gun trafficking operations. Members of the firearms industry, through NSSF, have for over a decade supported and helped fund the Don’t Lie for the Other Guy campaign. A joint effort between ATF and NSSF, the Don’t Lie for the Other Guy campaign helps to educate firearms retailers on how to better detect and prevent illegal purchases of firearms and warns the public that it is a serious crime to engage in a straw purchase: “Buy a gun for someone who can’t, buy yourself 10 years in jail.” NSSF calls on Congress, the Department of Justice and the Administration to continue funding Don’t Lie for the Other Guy so that this industry-supported initiative will help to prevent illegal purchases nationwide.
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Members of the firearms industry are proud of their longstanding cooperative relationship with federal, state and local law enforcement. Federally licensed firearms retailers serve as a primary source of information for law enforcement combating illegal firearm trafficking and routinely report questionable transactions to authorities, including ATF. Throughout this congressional investigation, it has been suggested that federally licensed retailers were the original source of information that gave rise to Operation Fast and Furious. Also surfacing during the course of this investigation is that firearms retailers allowed ATF special agents to stand behind the counter of their shops so that they were better able to observe the transactions.
NSSF continues to encourage all firearms retailers to cooperate with law enforcement and to report any suspicious transactions, including potential illegal straw purchases. What recent events have shown is that ours is a responsible industry that cooperates with law enforcement in its efforts to combat the criminal acquisition and misuse of firearms