Monday, December 12, 2011

Majority Squanders Opportunity to Help Law Enforcement Fight Gun Violence

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For Immediate Release
Date: Thursday, December 8, 2011
Contact: Matthew Morgan – 202-226-5543

Majority Squanders Opportunity to Help Law Enforcement Fight Gun Violence
Conyers calls for more effective law enforcement tools to combat gun trafficking

(WASHINGTON) –  Today, the House Judiciary Committee held an oversight hearing on the United States Department of Justice at which U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder testified.  The Majority focused most of their questioning on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) tactics during Operation Fast and Furious, a local operation planned by agents and prosecutors in Arizona.  Operation Fast and Furious used the same “gun walking” tactics initiated by investigations such as Operation Wide Receiver during the Bush Administration.  During Fast and Furious, the ATF allowed guns to move up the chain of illegal commerce instead of seizing dangerous firearms at the first opportunity.  Some of these firearms were found at crime scenes, including the scene of the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, a former Detroit area police officer.     

“Agent Terry’s death was a tragedy,” said Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr.   “And the tactics employed by Operation Fast and Furious were reckless and never should have been used.  But there is no evidence that Attorney General Holder approved or even knew of these tactics at the time, and the Attorney General has consistently maintained that these tactics are unacceptable.  The tactic of letting guns walk began during multiple investigations initiated during the Bush administration, some with the possible knowledge of then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey.  When the current Justice Department’s Criminal Division chief learned that this tactic had been used in Operation Wide Receiver during the Bush years, he warned ATF leadership that the tactic was unacceptable.

“Gun trafficking is a serious problem in the Southwest border region.  In order to combat gun violence, we must commit to maintaining the new rule requiring the reporting of multiple sales of large numbers of semiautomatic rifles and shotguns by individuals in the Southwest border states.  Many of my colleagues expressing outrage at Fast and Furious voted to prevent the use of funds to implement this rule, which is necessary to help fight the type of illegal straw purchases fueling the border violence.

“But we must do more. Congress must enact H.R. 2554, a bill to prohibit gun trafficking.  The bill will prohibit the transfer of multiple guns when the individual knows or has reasonable cause to believe the guns will be further transferred to those legally prohibited from carrying guns or who intend to use the guns illegally.  Current law is inadequate to deal with straw purchasers, and we need to enact this bill, which Congresswoman Maloney has sponsored and which I have cosponsored, to help address gun trafficking at the border.

“But the problem of gun violence on city streets across the nation is just as serious.  I applaud Attorney General Holder’s leadership and the Department of Justice’s commitment to helping cities combat gun violence in our communities.  For example, Detroit is one of six cities participating in the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention, a Department of Justice led effort.  And I commend the Detroit Police Department Chief Ralph Godbee, who accompanied Attorney General Holder at the hearing today, for spearheading this DOJ led effort in Detroit.
“Fast and Furious was a poorly conceived local operation that should never have been implemented.  However, this committee should take action to do the things we know will make us safer from gun violence.” 

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