Wednesday, December 22, 2010

How Worried Is the Obama Administration about the Arms Trade?

This story makes you question the Obama administration's commitment to helping Mexico on crime:
This spring, President Obama promised Mexican President Felipe Calderon that he would work to deter gunrunning south of the border. Behind the scenes, White House officials were putting the brakes on a proposal to require gun dealers to report bulk sales of the high-powered semiautomatic rifles favored by drug cartels.

Justice Department officials had asked for White House approval to require thousands of gun dealers along the border to report the purchases to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. ATF investigators expected to get leads on suspected arms traffickers.

Senior law enforcement sources said the proposal from the ATF was held up by the White House in early summer. The sources, who asked to be anonymous because they were discussing internal deliberations, said that the effort was shelved by then-White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, a veteran of battles with the gun lobby during the Clinton administration.
That the gun lobby throws its ample weight around in Washington liberally is, of course, not a secret. Nor do I think that an assault-weapons ban or other efforts to limit arms traffic are the key to making Mexico safer. (I think I've written this before, but once more for the record, with stricter control of the arms trade, the big criminal gangs will most certainly still be able acquire lots of dangerous arms. Nonetheless, it would be nice to see new gun-traffic measures just for the optics of it, and I do think it would help some around the margins, especially in terms of limiting small-time gangs' capacity to buy assault rifles.) This does, however, undermine the Obama administration's rhetoric about being serious about helping Mexico in its battles with organized crime, and the fact that the Democrats are scared to battle the NRA on this is, to say the least, disheartening.

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