What Are They Waiting For?

We applauded back in December when the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives announced that it was seeking an emergency rule requiring gun dealers near the Mexican border to report multiple purchases of high-power semiautomatic rifles that use a detachable magazine. It looked as if the Obama administration was finally awakening to the urgent need to combat the illegal trafficking of AK-47s and other assault weapons across the border and into the hands of violent drug cartels. It turns out that we were wrong to applaud.

The White House Office of Management and Budget must sign off on the plan, and the bureau asked it to do so by Jan. 5. When that date passed, administration officials insisted approval would be coming soon. Last Friday, the bureau’s answer arrived: The White House said that gunrunning to Mexico was a continuing problem rather than an emergency and did not warrant an exception to the 90-day process for implementing regulations.

The drug wars in Mexico have claimed more than 30,000 lives since 2006. That violence is fueled by gun-smuggling operations and the fact that American dealers can make bulk sales of military-style rifles favored by cartel gunmen without having to report those sales to federal authorities.

Dealers of handguns have to report bulk sales under federal statute, but the National Rifle Association and some of its supporters in Congress have protested that requiring a limited segment of gun dealers to report multiple sales of rifles would impose an onerous burden, and exceed the authority of the A.T.F.

Administration officials say the decision had nothing to do with the gun lobby’s strong opposition, adding that approval from the budget office could come by late March when the public comment period is over. These officials also say the president’s upcoming budget will seek additional financing for the A.T.F. to strengthen enforcement.

We wish we could feel confident. Meanwhile, we have heard nothing from the president or his aides about closing gaping holes in the background check system for gun purchases and other gun issues raised by the massacre in Tucson. These are real emergencies. What are they waiting for?

source: www.nytimes.com

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