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Gun Dealer Was Concerned About ATF’s Gun-Walking Program


By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — A controversial ATF gun-walking program apparently concerned an Arizona gun dealer, who like many others, had been encouraged by ATF to keep selling weapons to straw purchasers, all with the hopes agents would trace them to the higher levels of the Mexican drug cartels.

Problem was some of those guns sold by gun dealers got into the hands of criminals and may have been used in the fatal shooting of at least one federal agent.

Sen. Charles Grassley, who has been on the war path, attacking ATF for its programs — Project Gunrunner and its offshoot Operation Fast and Furious — released emails on Thursday from a concerned Arizona gun dealer. The emails were forwarded along with a letter to Atty. Eric Holder Jr. in which Grassley pointedly complained that the Justice Department had not released to him documents on the programs.

In one email, Grassley notes that the gun dealer — whose name was blacked out — raised concerns to ATF supervisor David Voth:

“I shared my concerns with you guys that I wanted to make sure that none of the firearms that were sold per our conversation with you and various ATF agents could or would ever end up south of the border and in the hands of the bad guys…I want to help ATF with its investigation, but not at the risk of agents’ safety because I have some very close friends that are U.S. border patrol agents in southern Arizona.”

Agent Voth replied on April 13, 2010:
“I understand that the frequency with which some individuals under investigation by our office have been purchasing firearms from your business has caused concerns for you. I totally understand and am not in a position to tell you how to run your business.

“However, if it helps put you at ease we (ATF) are continually monitoring these suspects using a variety of investigative techniques which I cannot go into detail. … Just know that we cannot instruct you on how to run your business, but your continued cooperation with our office has greatly aided the investigation thus far.”

Grassley said the gun dealers were put in a bad spot.

“On the one hand, these gun dealers rely upon the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms for their license to even be able to be in business,” he said in a statement.

“So, of course, these agents (Federal Firearms Licensees) want to cooperate with the government. When you have got this big club hanging over your head, will you be licensed or not licensed. On the other hand, the government asks these gun dealers to keep selling to the bad guys even after the dealers warned that it might end in tragedy.”

Grassley has indicated that some of the guns sold to straw purchases may have been used in the fatal shooting of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in Arizona last December. He is also trying to determine if any of the guns were used in the February fatal shooting in Mexico of ICE agent Jaime Zapata and the wounding of another agent.

Read Grassley letter and emails

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