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Mike Elk

Mike Elk is a labor journalist and staff writer for In These Times

February 8th, 2011 1:23 PM

Obama Fails to "Win The Future," for Law Enforcement Facing Cartel Assault Weapons

With 30,000 Civilians Already Dead Obama Denies Calls for Help From the ATF


Last week – notably, on an early Friday night, the traditional hour for the White House to announce unpleasant news - the Obama Administration delayed an emergency request from the ATF for more authority to trace long guns being sold to Mexican drug cartels. The proposed rule would have required gun dealers along the Mexican border to report when a single purchaser buys two or more assault weapons in five days.

Also notable is the fact that this rule is already in place for handguns. The ATF’s request was directly targeted at people who buy long guns in bulk to traffic south of the border. The rule would not affect most hunters, who rarely use assault weapons.

The rule came in response to the 30,000 people that have been killed in the Mexican drug war and the instability this phenomenon has caused for the Mexican government. A recent study showed that 65,000 guns from the United States have been captured during the war with drug cartels in Mexico. The study also demonstrated that the majority of the guns being used in the Mexican drugs wars actually come from the United States. One cartel bought 700 guns at one single store. Government officials in Mexico have called upon the United States to enact tougher anti-gun trafficking rules in order to prevent the violence.

It was the second time the Administration has delayed the implementation of the rule after facing stiff opposition from the National Rifle Association (NRA). In announcing the delay of the rule, the White House cited the need for “more transparency and opportunities for public participation” in the rulemaking process. Supporters of the proposed rule say the rule was delayed out of pure cowardliness.

“The White House decided that the illegal trafficking of thousands of semiautomatic assault rifles from the U.S. to Mexico is not an emergency, our coalition of over 550 mayors strongly disagrees,” said New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in a statement issued along with Mayor Thomas Menino; the two are co-chairs of Mayors against Illegal Guns. “These guns are fueling violence that has claimed more than 30,000 lives and putting our law enforcement officers at risk. ATF recognizes the emergency but we need the White House to give the agency the support it needs do its job effectively.”

Menino also blasted the decision, saying “ATF’s emergency proposal to require reporting of bulk sales of long guns would give law enforcement meaningful intelligence about gun trafficking from the U.S. to Mexican drug cartels. According to the Justice Department's Inspector General, these long guns make up nearly half of the guns recovered in Mexican crimes. ATF has said an overwhelming majority of these guns are traced back to the United States. It is disappointing that the Administration will not act swiftly to give ATF the investigative tools it needs to help stop these crimes.”

The White House refuses to stand up to the gun lobby even when polling shows that an overwhelming majority of Americans -- including NRA members -- support common-sense rules to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and terrorists. The President is not “winning the future” for those thousands being killed in Mexico who are having their futures denied.

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