The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee released the first of three parts on its Final Joint Report on Operation Fast and Furious yesterday. The report itself is 211 pages long while the three appendices comprise another 2,148 pages. To say it is detailed is an understatement.
It will take days before anyone can digest everything that is contained in the report and appendices. That said, a quick browse turned up a very interesting memorandum from then-Acting Director of ATF Kenneth Melson to Attorney General Eric Holder. (See Appendix III, page 173). The memo, received on March 26, 2010, was making the case to Holder for approval of a pilot project to use demand letters to Federal Firearms Licensees in certain states to force them to report multiple sales of semi-automatic rifles in a caliber greater than .22 and with the ability to accept detachable magazines.
This request was sent months before the Department of Justice Inspector General had released a report criticizing the effectiveness of ATF’s Project Gunrunner. Among the recommendations of the OIG’s reports was that reporting of multiple sales of long guns be explored. Melson concurred with this recommendation but said at the time “that this may require a change to the Gun Control Act which is beyond ATF’s and the Department’s authority.”
As we now know, ATF did get permission to do their one year pilot program to require reporting of multiple sales of certain rifles. It went into effect on August 14, 2011 in the Southwest Border states of Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas.
What makes Melson’s letter particularly interesting is that he was requesting authority from the Attorney General to not only request demand letters in the four border states but an additional eight more. These eight additional states included Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Washington State. The rationale given is that these (and the Southwest Border states) were the top 12 source states for firearms recovered and traced in Mexico in FY2009.
I think it has been assumed that the impetus for the multi-rifle reporting requirement was the Office of Inspector General’s report. As the Melson memo makes clear, ATF was pushing for this almost nine months earlier. Moreover, it was not limited to just states that bordered Mexico but major Mid-Western states such as Illinois and Southeastern states such as Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina. When you add in a state like Washington which is as far from Mexico as you could get, it doesn’t take too much of an imagination to assume that the so-called pilot program was meant to be a predecessor to rolling this out nationwide even though the Gun Control Act of 1968 did not give ATF this authority. Perhaps this is what Obama meant when he said to Sarah Brady that they were working “under the radar” on gun control.