By Kimberley Beatty / Special to San Diego Free Press
Republicans feign outrage over “Operation Fast and Furious,” ensure more illegal firearms flood the streets.
Putting aside Tea Party, Fox News and crazy Republican conspiracies about President Obama plotting to take away “2nd Amendment liberties” through a misguided “gun walking” program across the Mexican border, Republican outrage over Operation Fast and Furious is bizarre. Republicans and their NRA sponsors have fought hard and spent millions to ensure that America is flooded with more guns than people. We’ve long been the headache of the rest of the world because of this top export.
The National Rifle Association (NRA), one of the most powerful lobbies in the US, has relentlessly tried to destroy the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) since it was created in 1972. They came close under Ronald Reagan in 1981, when the NRA pushed legislation to abolish the agency. Realizing that federal gun law enforcement would transfer to the then much esteemed Secret Service, the NRA scuttled the proposal. Ironically, when Reagan was shot that year, ATF agents were crawling over boxes in warehouses in order to follow the paper trail of purchases and gun ownership of the gun used to shoot Reagan and his Press Secretary Jim Brady. The NRA had successfully blocked computerization of records because that would amount to registration.
In 1990, I was an ATF agent in Virginia, considered the gun-running center of the east coast. There were no limits on gun purchases. So, drug dealers and gunrunners would drive from New York, D.C. and elsewhere and pay a Virginia resident to purchase a grocery list of weapons from legitimate gun shops. The shops would run a cursory background check on the straw purchaser with the local ATF office. Agents would rush to the gun store, but often be too late. Even if the gunrunners were still there, they needed to be caught crossing interstate lines before they ran afoul of very weak federal gun laws. By the time a solid case was built and a gunrunner was arrested, hundreds of guns had already hit the streets and many had been traced to crimes involving drug gangs, armed robberies, and police.
Around this time newspaper headlines documented dogs obtaining federal firearms licenses to sell guns and individuals selling guns from the trunk of their cars. Big city mayors were outraged and in 1993, Governor Douglas Wilder, Virginia’s first black governor, instituted the One-Gun-A-Month Law.
The NRA’s relentless attacks on federal and state gun laws continued. Its’ support of the national database for criminal background checks was conditioned on prohibiting local ATF offices or other law enforcement agencies from accessing this information, further limiting ATF’s investigative powers. The NRA also required that all records pertaining to the background checks be immediately destroyed. The NRA’s Republican allies in congress also blocked legislation that would ban cop-killer bullets and assault weapons and close the gun show loopholes.
This past February, after almost 20 years, Virginia Republican Governor Bob McDonnell repealed the One-Gun-a-Month Law despite pleas from family members of shooting victims at Virginia Tech.
So, when San Diego’s own Congressman Daryl Issa and his Republican cohorts in congress are shocked, shocked, shocked to find out the federal government allowed guns to get in the hands of Mexican drug dealers, perhaps they should look to their own complicity in the over 100,000 Americans who are shot every year and the more than 30,000 Americans who die each year because our government allows guns to get in the hands of violent criminals in our own country.