Gun Advocates Ready for Battle on Federal Assault Weapons Ban
Attorney General Eric Holder is using the drug violence in Mexico to "confuse and mislead" Americans in an attempt to reinstate the expired federal assault weapons ban, gun advocates say.
Get ready for a gunfight.
Attorney General Eric Holder is using the drug violence in Mexico to "confuse and mislead" Americans in an attempt to reinstate the expired Federal Assault Weapons Ban, gun advocates claim.
Holder revealed his intention to reinstate the ban last month while announcing more than 700 arrests in connection with a crackdown on Mexican drug cartels operating in the United States.
"As President Obama indicated during the campaign, there are just a few gun-related changes that we would like to make, and among them would be to re-institute the ban on the sale of assault weapons," Holder said. "I think that will have a positive impact in Mexico, at a minimum."
Holder said reinstating the ban would decrease the flow of guns from the U.S. into Mexico. He declined to offer a timeframe for any re-implementation; Justice Department spokesman Matt Miller also declined comment on Tuesday.
But Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, told FOXNews.com that Holder's "argument in general is bizarre."
"It's a delusion to say that diminishing the Second Amendment in America is somehow going to stop these ruthless drug cartels in Mexico."
LaPierre called on Holder and Justice Department officials to uphold existing laws and focus on increasing enforcement along the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border, rather than consider additional legislation.
"The answer is to enforce the law on both sides of the border," LaPierre said. "I reject the notion that the reenactment of that ban would have any impact on the Mexican drug cartels."
LaPierre, referring to the drug-related violence that killed more than 6,200 people in Mexico last year, accused Holder of trying to "put a failed political agenda on the back of a national tragedy."
Signed into law by President Clinton in 1994, the Federal Assault Weapons Ban prohibited the sale of ammunition clips with more than 10 rounds and 19 types of semi-automatic military-style guns, including AK-47s and AR-15s. The ban expired in 2004, and a 10-year extension proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., was voted down.
Michael Hammond, spokesman for the Gun Owners of America, said he was not surprised by Holder's comments.
"We expected the Obama administration, contrary to promises made during the campaign, to do everything it can to go after us," Hammond said. "It's no surprise to us that [Holder] is using a crisis as an argument to achieving his policy goals."
During a House subcommittee hearing last week, Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action, warned against making U.S. gun owners "scapegoats" for the Mexican crisis.
"The message here is clear: According to some, the violence in Mexico is not the fault of the drug cartels or their American customers, nor is it the fault of decades of Mexican government corruption," Cox said in prepared remarks.
"In their view, the fault lies with American gun owners. This is an outrageous assertion."
Authorities should ramp up border security and continue targeting so-called straw buyers who do the cartels' "dirty work," Cox said.
But Tom Diaz, senior policy analyst at the Violence Policy Center, testified at the subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs on Thursday that the U.S. civilian gun market is fueling violence in Mexico and on both sides of its border.
"If one set out to design a 'legal' market conducive to the business of funneling guns to criminals, one would be hard-pressed to come up with a 'better' system that the U.S. civilian gun market -- short of simply selling guns directly to criminals from manufacturer and importer inventories," Diaz said in prepared remarks.
"The U.S. gun market not only makes gun trafficking in military-style weapons easy, it practically compels that traffic because of the gun market's loose regulations and the gun industry's ruthless design choices over the last several decades."
Citing February 2008 congressional testimony of William Hoover, assistant director of field operations at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Diaz said military-style weapons like the Barrett .50-caliber rifle, the Colt AR-15 .223-caliber assault rifle and the AK-47 are "precisely the makes and models of firearms that have been carefully designed, manufactured or imported and heavily marketed over the last 20 years by the U.S. civilian gun industry."
More than 7,770 guns sold in the U.S. were traced to Mexico last year, up from 3,300 in 2007 and roughly 2,100 in 2006, according to ATF statistics. It was not immediately clear what percentage of those guns fell under the United States' federal assault weapons ban.
Diaz also cited ATF tracing data that shows Mexican drug cartels receive between 90 and 95 percent of their firearms from the United States.
Along with measures such as targeting Texas, Arizona and California -- the three primary states where firearms are illegally smuggled into Mexico -- Diaz called for the implementation of an "effective" federal assault weapons ban modeled on a bill introduced in 2007 by Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y.
Diaz said manufacturers continued to sell assault weapons throughout the ban by making minor design changes. He also called for the passage of a bill introduced by Feinstein during the last session of Congress that would regulate .50-caliber sniper rifles under the National Firearms Act.
Meanwhile, Democratic lawmakers like Alaska Sen. Mark Begich and Montana Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester have already informed Holder that they'll vigorously oppose any new gun restrictions the Obama administration may be considering.
In a letter to Holder shortly after his comments, all three senators urged the Justice Department to focus on enforcing existing laws.
And Arizona state Sen. Jonathan Paton, who testified at last week's hearing, said additional gun laws are just not the answer.
"It would actually hurt the problem rather than help it," Paton, a Republican, said of re-instituting the federal assault weapons ban. "They're not giving us the resources on the laws that we already have on the books. What makes me think they're going to give us the resources for new laws?"
Paton cited Mexico's far stricter gun laws as proof that new domestic laws in the United States won't deter criminals intent on trafficking arms.
"It's not going to solve the problem you have with M-16s and AK-47s; they're already banned and they're already going into Mexico at a feverish pace," Paton told FOXNews.com. "The day they start taking their border security as serious as we do, Mexico will cut down tremendously on its amount of guns."