The White House is attacking Republicans who want to cut funding for the federal firearms control agency, claiming the move would aid the Mexican drug cartels.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), which is frequently targeted by gun rights supporters, could be defunded or eliminated as Congressional Republicans look for ways to cut government spending and fight what many call "weaponization" of law enforcement.
Former President Donald Trump, after his arraignment on felony charges brought by Democrat District Attorney Alvin Bragg in New York this week, joined a number of Congressional Republicans in a call to "defund" the Department of Justice — of which ATF is a part — and the FBI "until they come to their senses."
With President Joe Biden expected to announce his reelection bid in the coming months, the White House is trying to flip the script on Republicans, who often paint Democrats as anti-police, by emphasizing that it's now conservatives, led by Trump, who are calling to "defund the DOJ."
White House spokesperson Andrew Bates told NBC News that the GOP is trying to derail Biden's strategy to prevent drug traffickers from getting their hands on guns.
"MAGA Republican extremism in Congress is a growing threat to the fight against violent crime and fentanyl trafficking," Bates said in a statement. "President Biden is working hard to prevent the flow of firearms into the hands of drug cartels, as part of a comprehensive strategy to block the flow of fentanyl into the United States. But hardcore MAGA members of Congress are doing everything they can to thwart these efforts."
In Mexico, firearms are difficult to purchase legally. Both Mexican and American government officials, as well as researchers, have tried to shut down what's known as the Iron Pipeline of U.S. guns that make their way into Mexico. As many as 70% of the guns recovered by Mexican law enforcement come from the United States, according to U.S. government estimates.
"MAGA Republicans in Congress are trying to defund and abolish the ATF, the federal law enforcement agency responsible for helping stop the flow of firearms into the hands of gun traffickers," Bates said. "Assault weapons purchased in the United States are arming drug cartels and enabling them to outgun law enforcement."
Biden's plan to use executive power to crack down on illegal guns centers on the ATF, putting the agency squarely in the sights of many gun rights supporters.
At last month's congressional hearing, "ATF's Assault on the Second Amendment: When is Enough Enough?," House Republicans voiced opposition to a new regulation on pistol braces and floated defunding or axing the agency.
"I hope that we can act to put an end to this ATF overreach, and I would suggest that the most effective approach is to reduce funding or, better still, eliminate all funding," Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., said. "And even better, eliminate this woke, weaponized agency."
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