WASHINGTON — White House budget officials dealt federal firearms investigators a setback Friday when officials rejected an emergency rule meant to help catch gunrunners to Mexico.
The decision delays for at least two months a proposed requirement that gun dealers along the Mexican border report anyone who buys two or more assault weapons in five days. White House officials said the delay will give the public more time — until Feb. 14 — to comment on the proposal.
Meg Reilly, spokeswoman for the Office of Management and Budget, said the delay follows President Obama's directive to curb excessive regulation and "is consistent with the president's call for more transparency and opportunities for public participation in his recent executive order."
The delay marks the second time that the rule, strongly opposed by the gun industry and the National Rifle Association, has been put on hold. The idea was shelved last year by then-White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and was not reconsidered until after the midterm congressional elections.
Officials with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives had hoped the reporting requirement would help them track gunrunners — people such as accused trafficker Sean Christopher Steward, 28, a Phoenix man who purchased more than 100 AK-47s in a single month.
Steward is one of 34 people charged last week with trafficking about 700 firearms to Mexico. Over two days in early December 2009, Steward purchased 50 assault weapons at two different stores. On Christmas Eve, he purchased another 40 at a store in Glendale, Ariz. ATF investigators believe the weapons were meant to arm the Sinaloa drug cartel.
ATF officials requested the rule on an emergency basis after more than 30,000 people have been killed and more than 65,000 guns from the United States have been seized during the Mexican government's battle with the drug cartels.