Despite having expressed support for the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform’s investigation of ATF’s Operation Fast and Furious, the committee’s ranking member, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.-7th), held a forum last week that tried to turn the investigation into an opportunity to advance gun control.
Rep. Cummings trotted out gun-control proponents at his “forum” and issued a report entitled “Outgunned” that suggests a lack of gun control is somehow responsible for Operation Fast and Furious – an ATF operation that allegedly allowed as many as 2,500 firearms to be illegally straw purchased. Witnesses at last week’s forum included Kristen Rand of the Violence Policy Center (VPC) and Michael Bouchard, a retired ATF assistant director. The witnesses used their time to call for, among other things, banning the sale of modern sporting rifles and requiring sales reporting of long guns.
Other witnesses included Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, anti-gun Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), representatives from the Mexican Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and a Cook County, Illinois prosecutor.
Members of the firearms industry are proud of their longstanding cooperative relationship with federal, state and local law enforcement. If we’ve learned one thing from Operation Fast and Furious, it’s that federally licensed firearms retailers serve as a primary source of information for law enforcement combating illegal trafficking and routinely reporting questionable transactions to authorities, including ATF. It is clear that federally licensed retailers were the original source of information that gave rise to Operation Fast and Furious and retailers allowed ATF special agents to stand behind the counter of their shops so that they were better able to observe the transactions ATF asked them to make.
It is unfortunate that what should be an objective, bipartisan, fact-based investigation is being used as a political football to advance gun control. Rep. Cummings’ “forum” only served to undermine Chairman Issa’s legitimate investigation.