The ATF fears that steep cuts for the agency proposed by the White House would effectively eliminate a major initiative in the fight against firearms trafficking on the Mexican border, reports the Washington Post. Project Gunrunner is a signature effort by the Obama administration to assist Mexico in stemming the flow of guns south of the border. Under the project, federal officials in Arizona last week arrested more than a dozen people named in a 53-count indictment alleging that a network of gun buyers and smugglers had planned to ship hundreds of weapons to Mexican drug cartels.
Dubbed “Fast and Furious,” the investigation found traffickers purchasing 10, 20, 30 or 40 AK-47-style rifles at a time from gun shops in the Phoenix area. On one day in April, a couple now charged in the case paid $18,000 and walked out of a retail store with three .50-caliber, armor-piercing Barrett sniper rifles. The proposed ATF cutbacks, which would amount to nearly $160 million out of a $1.25 billion budget request–a 12.8 percent reduction that would also be 3.6 percent below the current budget–are outlined in a preliminary budget document obtained by the newspaper.