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ATF's tactics to end gun trafficking face a federal review

During a Department of Homeland Security oversight hearing Sen. Charles Grassley pressed DHS secretary Janet Napolitano for information regarding a Grassley investigation that determined the agency was knowingly trafficking guns to Mexico. (March 9)

The frustrations of agents began appearing anonymously on Web sites. Anti-ATF bloggers sympathetic to the militia movement picked up the allegations late last year, dubbing the scandal "Project Gunwalker" and alleging ATF agents let guns "walk" to boost the numbers of U.S. weapons recovered in Mexico. The bloggers theorized that the ATF wanted high numbers to gain support for an assault-weapons ban.

The ATF strategy was defended by Andre Howard, owner of Lone Wolf Trading Co. in Arizona, which cooperated with the ATF and sold the weapons found near Terry.

"It appears that any state or federal agency charged with said tasks are damned if they do, and damned if they don't," Howard said.

Defense attorney Dick DeGuerin said the controversy has had an impact on the criminal investigation into one of his clients, Carter's Country, a prominent Houston area chain that had sold assault weapons to an extensive gun-trafficking ring.

In an echo of the Fast and Furious case, DeGuerin said that Carter's Country had dozens of guns traced to Mexico, because in the past few years, the retailer was told by the ATF to go ahead with sales of assault weapons and then report the serial numbers later to the ATF.

Last week, a prosecutor called DeGuerin to say the investigation was being dropped.

"We stood to embarrass them, meaning the ATF, for being hypocritical, two-faced, and turning against the very people who were trying to help them," DeGuerin said.

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