House Republicans sought on Friday to turn the perennial national debate on gun control to their advantage, accusing the administration of President Barack Obama and the Justice Department under Attorney General Eric Holder of lax enforcement of laws already on the books.
Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and fellow GOP members of the panel wrote the President and the Attorney General demanding to know why federal prosecutions of gun-related crimes have fallen since President George W. Bush was in office.
“We must all be looking for ways to prevent senseless acts of violence and the taking of innocent life but the best place to start would be enforcing the laws that Congress has already enacted,” the letter said in part.
The Republicans cited data from a Syracuse University project purporting to show a steep decline in federal firearms-related prosecutions, including a mere handful of prosecutions linked to background checks of gun buyers.
“Before the President demands that Congress push through legislation to stifle the rights of law abiding citizens, he should take care to enforce the laws that are already on the books,” the Republicans said.
The letter was not specific about how the president is trying to “stifle” the rights of good citizens. The Supreme Court has held that there is indeed an individual right to possess firearms. The court has not held that there is an individual right to possess weapons like those used by soldiers in combat, or by the deranged young man who slaughtered schoolchildren in Connecticut in December, that can fire many rounds before the shooter has to stop to reload.
The Republicans lamented the “senseless tragedy” in Connecticut. They also brought up, yet again, the failures of Operation Fast and Furious, in which the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives lost track of weapons it was trying to follow into Mexico.