White House tightening of Mexico border gun rules delayed

PHOENIX Thu Jan 6, 2011 4:45pm EST

AK-47 short pistols, part of a weapons shipment seized by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), are laid out on a table at the bureau's Arizona headquarters in Phoenix, Arizona January 14, 2008. REUTERS/Jeff Topping

AK-47 short pistols, part of a weapons shipment seized by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), are laid out on a table at the bureau's Arizona headquarters in Phoenix, Arizona January 14, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Jeff Topping

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PHOENIX (Reuters) - A planned Obama administration clampdown on Mexico border gun dealers which would require them to report multiple assault rifle sales has been delayed by the White House amid stiff opposition from the powerful gun lobby.

The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said last month it would tighten reporting requirements to help agents gather intelligence to target smugglers running high-powered rifles to Mexico, where 30,000 people have been killed in drug cartel violence since 2006.

The measure would require around 8,500 gun dealers in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas to report sales of two or more high-powered semi-automatic rifles with detachable magazines to the same person within a five day period.

The White House Office of Management and Budget was expected to approve the emergency rule change on Wednesday. But an official with direct knowledge told Reuters that "ATF's information collection request is still under review," and declined further comment until the "deliberative phase is concluded."

Gun control activists said they hoped the delay was just procedural.

"We have been very disappointed with the Obama administration for most of its first two years in office with regard to the gun issue," said Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

"We're hopeful that this is just some standard bureaucratic delay, we haven't heard anything to the contrary," he added.

The move to boost ATF's ability to target gun traffickers comes as Mexican authorities are struggling to contain raging drug violence south of the border, where shootouts, beheadings and torture killings are a daily occurrence.

About 90 percent of the crime guns seized and traced in Mexico last year were initially sold in the United States, according to ATF. Investigators say around three-quarters of traces lead back to sales in the four states flanking the U.S. border.

This "iron river" of firearms flowing south to the drug cartels includes high powered Kalashnikov and AR-15 rifles toted by cartel hitmen across Mexico, and decorative .38 caliber pistols popular with drug kingpins.

GUN CONTROL BATTLE

The initiative requiring border states' gun dealers to report multiple long gun sales is shaping up as the toughest Obama administration battle with the powerful U.S. gun lobby.

Obama and the government of Mexican President Felipe Calderon have ramped up cooperation in recent months to curb drug smuggling north over the southwest border, and seize flows of cash and guns south to Mexico.

The policy being sought by ATF is backed by the Brady Campaign as a common-sense measure alerting law enforcement to multiple purchases of guns that could end up arming drug cartel hit men.

"Dealers are already required to report multiple sales of handguns and this is just implementing the same thing for long guns," Helmke told Reuters.

"It shouldn't be that much more of a burden on anyone in terms of paperwork and data collection, and it could help save lives ... It seems like a measure that should be fairly noncontroversial," he added.

But the powerful National Rifle Association, which lobbies tirelessly for gun rights, has slammed the Obama administration for using Mexican cartel violence as a pretext to impose registration on gun sales.

"This is just a shallow excuse to engage in a sweeping firearms registration scheme," NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre said in a post splashed on the group's website last month.

"The NRA will do everything in its power to stop these 'emergency requirements' from taking effect," he added.

(Reporting by Tim Gaynor, editing by Greg McCune)

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Comments (12)
DanPueppke wrote:
I wish that the media would learn the difference between “assault rifles” and legal semiautomatic sporting rifles. The cosmetic appearance of a rifle does not make it a destructive device, it has to do with the usage. Sticks and Stones may also be used to kill. Shall we ban them also? Assault is a verb defining an action: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/assault “assault:a military attack usually involving direct combat with enemy forces” We are supposed to be the most open and democratic society in the world, how did we get to the point where our country limits our abilities to defend our basic HUMAN rights? The erosion of our rights has transpired over many years, encroaching like roots of a tree upon a house foundation. One day the entire foundation will crumble and the house will come tumbling down. Let us hope that day does not come and we collectively awake in time to chop the roots before the permanent damage is done. Do not become complacent, wake up and take part in your future, before the future is no longer yours…. This is just my opinion, time will yield its validity.

Jan 06, 2011 8:09pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Lawsa0521 wrote:
@DanPueppke
You hit it right on the head.

Jan 07, 2011 10:24am EST  --  Report as abuse
doubleuranch wrote:
What I dont understand is, why on earth do they keep thinking that registering law abiding citizens gun purchases is going to deter or eliminate crime. Dont they get that criminals, thugs and lawbreakers would continue to purchase their guns illegally (or steal them) and wouldnt register their firearms. Handguns are already registered and has that stopped crimes done with handguns…no! UGH, this is so frustrating for someone with a brain…

Jan 07, 2011 10:26am EST  --  Report as abuse
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