How to make the Congressional Research Service work for us for a change.
Congress moves in mysterious ways to the uninitiated and by processes that are to the outsider obscure and arcane. For example, when an anti-firearm Congresscritter is thinking about whipping up some new restrictive anti-gun laws, he (or she, i.e., Rep. Carolyn Maloney), calls on experts at the Congressional Research Service to write a report that analyzes and summarizes the proposed legislation, so it can be circulated to other Congresscritters (or, more specifically to their staff people who have the advantage over their bosses of having a modicum of intelligence). CRS reports on banning or registering .50 caliber rifles are an example.
The Congress routinely relies upon CRS reports to obtain legislative and policy information, and to prepare materials in support of Congressional hearings. But these reports are not available to the public, although any Congressional office can obtain them and circulate them to whomever they please. This happens on a selective basis. It is not the best reflection of transparency and democracy, but like others who are directly denied CRS reports, we can work around that. It should be emphasized that CRS reports such as described here are not classified, and can be freely distributed to anybody. But CRS will not do so.
A relatively new CRS report, “Gun Control Legislation” by William J. Krouse, Specialist in Domestic Security and Crime Policy, is a different sort of product---it is not a "custom" request report, and is referred to generically as an "Issue Brief" intended to give an overview of a particular issue, in this case gun control legislation. CRS has issued several of these Gun Control Legislation reports, which are updated periodically. Issue Briefs deliberately avoid taking positions on proposed legislation, as well as the social and/or political issues underlying them, and are intended to be bipartisan and neutral in content and tone, but are intended to reflect recent a current legislative agendas, give equal space to opposing viewpoints---and let the Congress sort it out.
CRS previously did a report entitled "Gun Trafficking and the Southwest Border" by Vivian S. Chu, CRS Legislative Attorney and William J. Krouse, dated 29 July 2009. My information is that this report was requested by anti-firearm Congresscritters, at least in part, to boost the ATF program known as Project Gunrunner. To be fair, CRS takes seriously its role to provide balanced, unbiased information, obviously a difficult task.
Yet in November of last year the U.S. Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General Evaluation and Inspections Division released a report titled "Review of ATF’s Project Gunrunner" which was extremely critical of ATF's performance.
Now, as we know, Project Gunrunner has led to the Project Gunwalker scandal and the death of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry on 14 December 2010. Senator Grassley has been put in touch with whistleblower ATF agents and has sent two letters to Acting Director Melson, one on 27 January and one on 31 January.
Here is what you can do. Each of you has a Congressman and two Senators. Sit down and write a letter containing the facts set forth above:
1. Cite the 29 July 2009 CRS report, Gun Trafficking and the Southwest Border, noting that it supports Project Gunrunner.
2. Cite the November 2010 DOJ Inspector General report, Review of ATF’s Project Gunrunner, Evaluation and Inspections Report I-2011-001, November 2010", which criticizes Project Gunrunner. For example, the IG determined:
ATF has not provided Mexican law enforcement with intelligence it requested on firearms trafficking patterns and trends, including trafficking routes and distribution points where guns are crossing into Mexico.
3. Cite the allegations that Senator Grassley has identified in the foregoing letters (download, print them out and enclose them with your letter).
4. And this is the action item that no Congresscritter can deny he/she lacks the power to do: demand that they request the CRS for an immediate update of the 29 July 2009 report that includes (A) the criticisms of Project Gunrunner, (B) the major criticisms of Project Gunrunner identified by the Department of Justice Inspector General, and (C) appropriately contextualizes the allegations stated in Senator Grassley's letters.
This is something that they can do with a quick instruction to one of their aides, and a short letter. Ask that the Congresscritter confirm by mail that they have done this service for their constituents and actually requested the update.
We can use the CRS system to more fairly update the status of Project Gunrunner in ways that are likely to be more informative than, for example, anti-gun articles in the Washington Post that ignore what isn't working.
CRS can make an important informational contribution to these issues by providing a substantive, balanced, bipartisan and objective update of the 29 July 2009 report Gun Trafficking and the Southwest Border, which is now seriously out of date.
OK, got it? Now circulate this to every Second Amendment site on the Internet you can think of. Write those letters and make the system move for firearm rights and not against it. The simple act of doing so -- of thousands of us doing so -- will build consciousness throughout the Congress that this scandal is here, it is happening, it cannot be ignored and it is not going away until they deal with it.
The alleged leader of a merry band of Three Percenters