Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the Ranking Member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has come through on his promise to hold hearings on gun control and the ATF. If you will remember from the June 15th hearing into Operation Fast and Furious, he said he would be exercising his right for a Minority day of hearings. From Cummings’ opening statement:
Finally, no legitimate examination of this issue will be complete without analyzing our nation’s gun laws, which allow tens of thousands of assault weapons to flood into Mexico from the United States every year, including .50-caliber sniper rifles, multiple AK variants, and scores of others, some of them landing in neighborhoods like mine, the one I represent in Baltimore. When Mexican President Calderon addressed Congress in May, he pleaded for us to stop fielding a full- scale drug war with military-grade assault weapons.
In order to explore these issues further today, I’m exercising my right under the rules, Mr. Chairman, of the House for a minority day of hearings with several witnesses who will testify about these issues in great detail. I did not think it was necessary to call these witnesses for today’s hearing, but I will work with the chairman on scheduling these hearings in the near future.
Those hearings are scheduled for tomorrow at 10am EDT according to reports in the Houston Chronicle and the website Main Justice. From the Houston Chronicle:
★ Thursday: Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, will hold a forum on the flow of illegal guns on both sides of the U.S./Mexico border. The forum will be held at 10 a.m. EDT in the Russell Senate Office Building.
Rep. Cummings has not posted a release or notice about the hearings on the House Oversight Committee’s website. However, Main Justice had this to report on the hearing speakers:
Speakers at the minority hearing will include Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), a retired ATF agent, and several gun control advocates.
It seems Cummings is keeping a tight lid on just who the “retired ATF agent, and several gun control advocates” are. If I had to make an educated guess, the retired ATF agent is probably “Waco Jim” Cavanaugh who just last week had an op-ed in TickleTheWire saying that the ATF director should be not be subject to Presidential appointment and subsequent Senate confirmation. Among the gun control advocates will probably be Paul Helmke in his last hurrah before he leaves as head of the Brady Campaign. Of course, this is just speculation.
This “hearing” will be just another in the diversionary tactics being employed to divert attention from Project Gunwalker and on the “need” for more gun control. The Washington Post’s ridiculous editorial from Sunday could also be put in this category. For a less diplomatic description of the hearings, I think Mike captures it with his headline here.
UPDATE: Well, I was right about Paul Helmke being there but wrong about “Waco Jim”. The complete list of people “testifying” is below:
Senator Charles Schumer (NY)
Michael R. Bouchard, former Assistant Director Field Operations, ATF
Thomas Mahoney, Assistant State’s Attorney Supervisor, Gang Prosecution Unit, Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office
Eric Olson, Senior Associate, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
Kristen Rand, Legislative Director, Violence Policy Center
Paul Helmke, President, Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence
Colby Goodman, Author of “U.S. Firearms Trafficking to Mexico: New Data and Insights Illuminate Key Trends and Challenges”
Cummings says the aim of the forum – which I suppose means the testimony is not sworn – will be:
Law enforcement officials have testified that improvements to our nation’s gun laws are needed to address this increasingly devastating problem, including enhanced penalties for illegal straw purchases, the enactment of a firearms trafficking statute, and a reporting requirement for the purchase of multiple long guns, such as fifty caliber assault weapons and multiple AK variants.
Cummings will issue a report with recommendations to provide U.S. law enforcement with the tools needed to address gun trafficking.
Recent editorials in the New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times reiterate the need for basic, common-sense improvements to assist law enforcement officials counter violence by international drug cartels operating along the southwest border.
You have to wonder if the testimony would be the exactly the same if it was sworn and perjury charges could be brought.
Mike has more on the witnesses and their background especially former ATF official Michael Bouchard.