Grassley to ATF: Explain Focus on Gun Owners Instead of Cartel Trafficking

The lesson the government learned from Operation Fast and Furious is that violent Mexican crime helps it sell U.S. gun bans. (Drug Enforcement Administration’s Special Operations Division

“Since Operation Fast and Furious, I’ve conducted broad oversight with respect to gunrunning operations and the ATF’s role with respect to them,” Sen. Chuck Grassley, in his position as Ranking Member of the Committee on the Budget, wrote Tuesday in a letter to Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives Director Steve Dettelbach. “Accordingly, I write today regarding concerning reports that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) defunded and shut down an interagency effort, Project Thor, to combat weapons trafficking networks that are used by Mexican cartels within the U.S. to smuggle weapons to Mexico.

Citing CBS News reports that “Mexican drug cartels have been smuggling a vast arsenal of even military-grade weapons out of the U.S. with the help of American citizens,” Grassley questioned why “ATF denied Project Thor funding for fiscal year 2022, and law enforcement, intelligence, and diplomatic officials told the news outlet that the current approach to combat and dismantle cartel gunrunning networks across the U.S. was ‘ineffective.’”

He further questioned why, with the reported scope of the trafficking and the threat it represents, the ATF was instead focused on “targeting law-abiding gun owners and sellers,” requiring “any law-abiding citizen who sells a single firearm online to register for a Federal Firearms License” which “could subject them to warrantless inspections of their homes, an exercise that will undoubtedly consume limited ATF resources. In addition, the ATF has revoked a record number of FFLs under its “zero tolerance” policy which has been criticized for punishing small business gun shop owners for innocent or mere administrative errors.”

Citizen journalist John Richardson posted an insightful analysis of the CBS report, noting, “US government officials estimate that the cartels are smuggling 2,000 firearms a day across the Mexican border. The way it works is that the cartels alert buyers in the US who are not prohibited persons of their needs, they transfer the guns to brokers, and then the guns go to smugglers who take the firearms across the border to the cartels. Buyers are reported to be spread across all 50 states.”

If that sounds familiar, it’s the premise on which Operation Fast and Furious, which Grassley opened his letter to Dettelbach with, was founded. While the conventional media narrative is that it was designed to track the guns to cartel buyers but became a “botched gun,” ATF could not have botched it because they never tried to track them to the buyers. Once guns were crossed over the border, the only way to find out what happened to them would be to find them at crime scenes, where they could then be used, along with the predictable dead bodies, to “pad statistics.”

This, in turn, was used by gun prohibitionists to demand more “gun control,” including an attempt to renew an “assault weapon ban.” Meanwhile, ATF and the Department of Justice waged a campaign of stonewalling investigations and retaliating against whistleblowers while bodies continued (and continue) to pile up.

Unfortunately (outrageously), most of the original reporting has disappeared from the internet and is now only available via the Internet Archive (so expect the links in this paragraph to load slowly). Eight volumes tell the story of how citizen journalist Mike Vanderboegh and this correspondent followed up on leads to contact and verify whistleblowers and attempted to pressure the “mainstream” media to notice and report on the story, and the Senate Judiciary Committee and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to investigate it and provide whistleblower protection.

A repeat of the same government/media narratives that were pushed in Fast and Furious may explain why ATF is not interested in programs like Thor but in going after FFLs instead: the Biden Administration’s goals are for more gun bans and citizen disarmament. He’s told the country what he wants. Concentrating on tackling the real problems, pervasive U.S. authoritarianism, and top-down Mexican corruption instead of U.S. guns does not advance those goals.

Grassley’s latest efforts are laudable, but don’t expect them to be productive without a House and Senate majority and a Republican in the White House. And even with that, too often, the GOP has enjoyed such advantages but then failed to do anything substantive to rein in abuses and hold abusers accountable.

How many deaths resulted from what I termed “Project Gunwalker”? How many responsible officials are behind bars? And why is the border still porous?

Grassley’s letter to Dettelbach follows:

Grassley Letter to ATF Director by AmmoLand Shooting Sports News on Scribd

About David Codrea:

David Codrea is the winner of multiple journalist awards for investigating/defending the RKBA and a long-time gun owner rights advocate who defiantly challenges the folly of citizen disarmament. He blogs at “The War on Guns: Notes from the Resistance,” is a regularly featured contributor to Firearms News, and posts on Twitter: @dcodrea and Facebook.

David Codrea

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We are the enemy of Joe Biden’s government, his left wing wacko and rogue judges.

The other Jim

FJB said he was going to be “Transparent” and his actions as president would be “transparent”. Yes it is easy to see, indeed we the taxpaying hard working citizens are his enemy.


US Supreme Court in MARTELL, 222 US 225 commands that all laws SHALL be based upon “concrete conditions” of a documented
“evil” that supports the need for a law to protect the public.

Knute Knute

And the flip side of that coin is that the Mexican drug cartels… are the US government’s allies! Is anybody starting to wonder yet why the “War on Drugs” was such a predictable failure? Because with the powers-that-be in DC secretly on the drug lords’ side, the whole idea of arrest and punishment becomes pretty well a moot point, now doesn’t it? With the whole federal government running interference for them, the drug cartels are free and clear. All they have to do is share their funds with the feds. It’s called: being in business together. Naturally, the dons in… Read more »


Tsk, tsk, me thinks it would be much misguided to focus on Biden and his judges and not the larger picture of the individuals who are driving the destruction of the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.


The Tyranny is so ingrained within the ATF, FBI, and the rest of the Federal alphabet agencies. That they must be torn asunder and the remains burned beyond recognition. With all of the requisite authority returned to the states. Where the Founders intended it to be,

Last edited 4 months ago by Darkman

That’s a good idea. I believe President Kennedy tried that with the CIA and the corrupt John Dulles. We all know what it got him!

Last edited 4 months ago by hippybiker

You mean the real JFK. The Republican Conservative?


Any agent who harasses a private seller or browbeats an FFL to surrender his license should be prosecuted under 18 U.S. Code § 242 – Deprivation of rights under color of law: . Along with any management who promulgates these actions, including Dettelbach.

Knute Knute

Good luck getting THAT done! 🙂
We can’t even stop the president’s offspring from filling the White House full of cocaine! One would think that that’s a 2 inch putt, but we just cannot seem to get the ball in the hole, even after dozens of tries over years of attempts.


DIY – “promulgates these actions, ESPECIALLY Dettelbach.” – there fify. I could add in his bosses and enablers as well but really not needed.


Cartel is “smuggling vast arsenal even including military-grade weapons” from US to Mexico. My question is where is Cartel acquiring military-grade weapons? If straw purchasers can simply wander into an FFL to purchase military weapons for the Cartel – why can’t I do the same for personal use?

Maybe writer was getting confused.


atf must be supplying them

Knute Knute

Or maybe it’s because the BATF saved the receipts!
30 years later and this routine is still as relevant as it was back in the early 90’s. The more things change, the more they stay the same………


More like the CBS writer is an anti-gun propagandist, who uses the propaganda terms like “military grade weapons”; of which, there is no definition.

Watch um

I agree, I didn’t like that term because it is basically implied that an AR-15 which shoots a 5.56 round is a military grade weapon and the liberals call them assault weapons. A semiauto AK 47 is not an assault weapon.

Knute Knute

The same deceptive speaking tricks are in play whenever they say something like: “High-powered rifle”. For that term to have any meaning it would need an opposite. But when have you ever heard the term; “low powered rifle”? Never. Not even in regard to a .22 RF! And if any rifle is low powered, that would be the ones. But nobody ever says that. They’re all “high powered” rifles. Even 5.56s which are anything but high powered. In many states they’re below the legal power threshold and aren’t even legal to shoot game with. Their only field use is for… Read more »


I gave up on trying to get the Left to use the correct terms because they insist on using the term that best fits their agenda regardless of what we think is correct, and also because we’re not all that religious about the correct terms either. A bullet is not a cartridge. A magazine is not a clip. An assault weapon is not an assault rifle. Sometimes the difference is obvious and easily explained. Most cartridges have a bullet as one component. A full clip is inserted into an M1 Garand’s magazine. Assault weapon and assault rifle are not so… Read more »


ATF is an enemy of the PEOPLE!


It’s business as usual for the Biden Crime family! I’m sure “The Big Guy’s” getting his 10% of the blood money!

Capn Dad

Simple answer to that question. The cartels are biden’s allies and American citizens are bidens enemy.


Damn! What a brilliant question Mr. Grassley raises. Will we get suitable response and action?


Ol – short answer – NO – the bats are merely following the desires of their bosses in order to retain some degree of ‘relevancy’ – and funding.

Matt in Oklahoma

Further quality proof that politicians are now using fed agencies as weapons


The ATF need not be concerned about Americans guns until the clowns get all the fully automatic weapons collected that the complete clownshow Joe Biden donated to the Taliban . FJB and the ATF .


You want to change the game?
You have to remove every player.

Give a politician an inch, they’ll take your life.