Friday, October 13, 2023

Senator Grassley Questions ATF’s Priorities Over Gun Trafficking

Drug Enforcement Administration’s Special Operations Division

Senator Chuck Grassley, in his role as the Senior Member of the Budget Committee, recently addressed a letter to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) Director Steve Dettelbach. Grassley's concern stems from reports suggesting that the ATF halted Project Thor, an initiative aimed at curbing weapons trafficking by Mexican cartels within the U.S.

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CBS News highlighted that these cartels have been illicitly obtaining an array of weapons from the U.S., thanks to some American citizens. Grassley has raised questions regarding ATF’s decision to cut funding for Project Thor in the fiscal year 2022. Reports have indicated that the current strategies against cartel weapons trafficking within the U.S. aren’t yielding effective results.

Grassley's concerns also extended to the ATF's focus on regular gun owners and vendors, requiring them to obtain a Federal Firearms License for single online gun sales. This could potentially expose them to unwarranted home inspections. Furthermore, under the "zero tolerance" policy, the ATF has rescinded a significant number of FFLs, a move criticized for penalizing small gun businesses for minor administrative errors.

John Richardson, a citizen journalist, dissected the CBS report, observing that roughly 2,000 firearms are smuggled across the Mexican border daily. The cartels employ a strategy of informing U.S. buyers about their requirements. These buyers then liaise with brokers to obtain the guns, which are later smuggled to the cartels.

Grassley's mention of Operation Fast and Furious is reminiscent of a similar premise. Though the mainstream belief was that this operation aimed at tracking firearms to cartel purchasers, it is suggested that the ATF never actively attempted this. Instead, these firearms were only identified at crime scenes, which were then utilized to inflate statistics.

Such tactics have been leveraged by gun restriction proponents to push for tighter gun regulations. Both the ATF and the Department of Justice have reportedly hindered inquiries and retaliated against informers. 

Archived records narrate how citizen journalists, such as Mike Vanderboegh, pursued leads and corroborated whistleblower accounts. They also pushed mainstream media outlets to spotlight the matter and urged Senate committees to offer protection to these informers.

The recurring narratives seen in operations like Fast and Furious might hint at the ATF’s reluctance in projects like Thor and its inclination towards targeting FFLs. It seems to align with the Biden Administration's objectives of enforcing stricter gun regulations. The larger issues, such as U.S. authoritarianism and deep-rooted corruption in Mexico, remain overlooked.

Grassley's endeavours are commendable. However, without a majority in the House and Senate, along with a Republican president, tangible results might be elusive. The GOP, in instances of having such advantages, has been critiqued for not effectively curbing infringements and ensuring culpable individuals face repercussions.

It remains uncertain how many casualties resulted from this and why the border retains its vulnerabilities.

The content of Grassley’s letter to Dettelbach is as follows:

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