Thursday, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman and NRA sweetheart Darrell Issa (R-CA) held a hearing aimed at pushing the ongoing GOP-led congressional investigation into the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF) deadly “gunrunner” scandal. Yet, when asked about what allowed the ill-fated project to be implemented, Issa’s own witness — ATF agent Peter Forcelli — ended up pointing to the structural deficiencies that the NRA-backed GOP has fought to keep in place.
In one instance, Forcelli argued in favor of tougher gun laws:
REP. CAROLYN MALONEY (D): District court judges view these [straw purchase] prosecutions as mere paper violations. Have you heard this criticism before?
FORCELLI: I have and I agree with it. I think that perhaps a mandatory minimum one year sentence might deter an individual from buying a gun. Some people view this as no more consequential than doing 65 in a 55.
In another, Forcelli admitted that his agency simply doesn’t have the resources it needs to be effective:
REP. GERALD CONNELLY (D-VA): Do you really have the resources you need to do your job?
FORCELLI: It’s amazing, sir, that you ask me that… […] I have less than 100 agents assigned to the entire State of Arizona, that’s 114,006 square miles. So do we have the resources, no we don’t. We desperately need them.
Issa jumped in to remind Forcelli that his assessment fell “outside the scope” of the hearing and “would not be considered valid testimony.”
Issa’s hearings on the gunrunner operation come just a few months after the NRA requested “expedited” hearings on the issue, in hopes that it would reportedly “help kill a request from federal regulators for more authority to track gun purchases in the southern border states.” This past May, at the NRA’s annual convention, the powerful gun lobby group called for the resignation of Attorney General Eric Holder over the ATF operation.
Ironically, the NRA lobby itself has been blamed for weakening the ATF and rendering it leaderless since 2006. “The gun lobby has consistently outmaneuvered and hemmed in ATF, using political muscle to intimidate lawmakers and erect barriers to tougher gun laws,” reported the Washington Post. “Over nearly four decades, the NRA has wielded remarkable influence over Congress, persuading lawmakers to curb ATF’s budget and mission and to call agency officials to account at oversight hearings.”