Gun Control Group Calls NRA 'a Criminal's Best Friend'

By Randy Hall | July 7, 2008 | 8:06 PM EDT

( - The National Rifle Association is "a criminal's best friend" because for decades, NRA assaults on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives have "greatly aided criminals seeking to obtain illegal firearms," according to a report released Thursday by a gun control group.

"The NRA: A Criminal's Best Friend" shows how the Second Amendment organization "has fought to hamstring and intimidate federal law enforcement," said Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. He was speaking at a news conference in Washington, D.C.

"If you look at what has been attempted and done to weaken common-sense measures to prevent gun violence, particularly over the past six years, it is obvious that the gun pushers have way too much influence over federal law enforcement policy," Helmke said.

"NRA allies in Congress have required ATF to meet extraordinary burdens of proof to prosecute gun traffickers and revoke lawbreaking gun dealers' licenses, imposed severe restrictions on ATF inspectors and allowed largely unregulated gun show sales to flourish," he added.

According to Helmke, the report "reveals the NRA's aggressive campaign to undermine the landmark Brady background check law," including lawsuits to strike down the law and the successful effort under President Bush to mandate the destruction of instant background check records that are supposed to prevent criminals from buying firearms.

The study accuses the NRA of lambasting federal ATF agents as "fascists" and "street thugs" who "murder law-abiding citizens." It also mentions the NRA's recent charges of ATF "abuses" while conducing gun show stings in Richmond, Va.

As Cybercast News Service previously reported, ATF agents told a congressional committee last February that its agents did not use racial or sexual profiling during those sting operations, as some eyewitnesses claimed.

During Thursday's press conference, Brady Center representatives were joined by law enforcement officials who said police efforts to crack down on illegal gun trafficking were being directly and sharply undermined by the agenda of the NRA and its allies.

"As a newcomer to Washington, D.C., I'm particularly surprised at how little respect has been given to the concerns of the law enforcement community," Helmke stated.

"What the gun lobby is doing in Washington is making it harder for me to do my job," said Atlanta Police Chief Richard Pennington. "Instead of handcuffing law enforcement, we should put political handcuffs on the NRA's lobbyists."

Pennington was accompanied at the event by several other law enforcement officials, including Commissioner Sylvester Johnson of Philadelphia; Chief Gil Kerlikowski of Seattle; Police Foundation President Hubert Williams; and Jesse Lee, executive director of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives.

The officers joined Brady Center leaders in charging that the NRA has intensified its anti-federal law enforcement efforts this year by "supporting a package of legislation to make it virtually impossible to revoke the licenses of lawbreaking gun dealers" (H.R. 5092) and attempting to "repeal the longstanding prohibition on interstate sales of handguns at gun shows" (H.R. 1384).

Another measure criticized during the Thursday event was H.R. 5005, the "Firearms Corrections and Improvement Act," which Helmke said would "prohibit the government from revealing the identities of rogue dealers to the public."

Cybercast News Service previously reported that the Coalitions Against Trafficking Handguns slammed Congress on Sept. 12 for not having "learned the lessons of 9/11" and considering the measure.

However, Autumn Fogg, a spokeswoman for the NRA, defended the bill, which would make gun-trace information used by the ATF available to federal, state, local and foreign law enforcement agencies or prosecutors for bona fide criminal investigations, but not to the public at large.

The Brady Center can describe H.R. 5005 however they please, Fogg told Cybercast News Service, but if the bill is passed, it would go a long way toward eliminating frivolous civil lawsuits against law-abiding gun dealers.

"Under current law, you have to arrest those who break the law and hold them accountable for their actions, which is the first step to lowering crime," she said.

Fogg also dismissed the claims made in the gun control group's new document.

"I think it's fair for people to be skeptical of what is coming out of the Brady Campaign as a so-called 'report,'" she said.

"Any information that we use -- studies, investigations, analyses -- are conducted by the government or by a non-partisan group," Fogg added, but "any report or investigation that comes out of the Brady Campaign -- a strong gun control group -- should be carefully scrutinized before accepting it as fact."

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