Reading Los Angeles: Join The Times' new book club
Opinion Opinion L.A.

Gun control at the border

The Obama administration took a concrete step toward curbing the flow of semiautomatic weapons to Mexico last week when it adopted a new regulation mandating the reporting of multiple sales of long guns to federal authorities.

Under the regulation, some 8,500 licensed gun shops in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas will be required to inform the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives when a customer buys more than one semiautomatic that is .22 caliber or greater within a five-day period.

The regulation is a small but significant tool that could help federal authorities keep weapons sold in the United States out of the hands of Mexican gangs and drug cartels. Rather than tracing an AK-47 after it has been recovered from a crime scene, ATF agents may be able to intervene before the weapon is smuggled across the border.

The National Rifle Assn. is, not surprisingly, denouncing the modest rule as encroaching on Americans' 2nd Amendment rights; in fact, it is already threatening to sue the federal government, contending that only Congress can impose such rules. And some Republicans have noted that the decision to impose what they consider unnecessary reporting standards on Americans comes in the wake of a bungled ATF operation called Fast and Furious. That operation was designed to track illegal straw purchases of guns destined for Mexico, but the agency lost track of the guns and some of them ended up at crime scenes, including at the site of the killing of a U.S. Border Patrol agent last year.

The ATF should be required to explain how Fast and Furious was botched. But that failure shouldn't be used to derail a perfectly sensible plan that is, if anything, too modest. The new rule doesn't impinge on anyone's right to own a gun. It doesn't even prohibit individuals from making multiple purchases. It simply requires that licensed gun dealers report such sales. Dealers are already subject to the same reporting requirement for multiple handgun sales, and in states such as California, a customer can buy only one handgun a month.

Military-style weapons are fueling the violence in Mexico, where nearly 40,000 people have died in the last four years. The new rule won't stop the bloodletting. It will, however, provide agents in this country with tips that could help rein in the illegal movement of weapons and save lives on both sides of the border.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
Related Content
  • Full coverage: ATF's Fast and Furious scandal
    Full coverage: ATF's Fast and Furious scandal

    div.clear { clear: both; } .mainPhoto {display: none !important;} {display: none !important;} .galleryModule .thumbnail {width:187px; height: 105px;} .galleryModule p {font-size: 12px;} .date {font-size: 11px !important;} .sg-header {font-size: 28px; margin: 0 0 8px;} .gallerymoreheadlines {...

  • A sane gun law is under fire in San Diego
    A sane gun law is under fire in San Diego

    Under California law, counties have the option of restricting permits to carry concealed weapons in public to those applicants who establish a “good cause” for doing so. Or they did until earlier this year, when a divided three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals...

  • Let's lock up L.A's guns
    Let's lock up L.A's guns

    Responsible gun owners know they can avoid accidents by taking certain precautions, including locking their weapons away or using trigger locks when their weapons aren't being used. Last week, Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Krekorian called for a new law that would make these common-sense...

  • America's mass-shootings epidemic
    America's mass-shootings epidemic

    It's not a matter of if, but when and where the next mass shooting will happen: It might take place at another shopping mall, or college campus, or suburban office building, and probably not long from now. Yet, as these disturbing incidents keep appearing in the headlines, various...

  • Gridlock in Congress? Act locally
    Gridlock in Congress? Act locally

    The voters casting ballots in Tuesday's election will disagree on many things. But on one thing, at least, Americans are in agreement: They're frustrated with gridlock.

  • A silver lining from the Isla Vista tragedy: New power to take guns from the unstable
    A silver lining from the Isla Vista tragedy: New power to take guns from the unstable

    The pro-gun crowd will be foaming, but Gov. Jerry Brown today signed into law AB 1014, by Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), that will let family members or police seek a court order to temporarily remove lawfully owned weapons from the home of someone deemed at risk of committing...

  • Toy guns should look like toys
    Toy guns should look like toys

    The scene has been repeated with agonizing frequency: Police officers encounter someone holding a gun and, fearing for their lives, they shoot to kill, only to discover that the gun was a replica so faithful to the original that it looked real. Granted, in some of these cases the police have...

  • More deaths in Seattle as Washington voters weigh dueling gun laws
    More deaths in Seattle as Washington voters weigh dueling gun laws

    Amid the tragedies, irony.