PBS Anchor Judy Woodruff Whacks NRA, Skips Fast & Furious In Interview with New ATF Director

How could a network TV anchor interview the head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and not ask about Obama’s “Fast & Furious” Mexican gun-running scandal? Ask PBS anchor Judy Woodruff.

On Thursday night, Woodruff interviewed newly confirmed ATF director B. Todd Jones and utterly failed to ask a scandal question. She began by lamenting the ATF is called a "neglected stepchild" of law enforcement, and “It's been pointed out your number of agents smaller than many city municipal police departments, sheriff's departments. How are you managing?” And then “But how strapped do you feel for resources?” This set up Woodruff’s NRA bashing:

JUDY WOODRUFF: The NRA, the rest of the gun rights lobby has worked very hard since the ATF was created to limit your budget and, among other things, to say that you shouldn't have the ability in a large sense to go after guns that are used in crimes, [?] that are used in the commission of crimes. How much has that affected what you're able to do here?

B. TODD JONES: We have an area of expertise in the firearms realm that was really statutorily given to us in 1968. The Gun Control Act was a pivot point for this organization.

And over the years, we have assumed additional jurisdictional reaches, arson, explosives. But at the core of what we do is really to regulate the legal commerce in firearms and to work to enforce the Gun Control Act when those firearms migrate into the black market or the illegal market. And that's a tall task.

WOODRUFF: But you -- but, at the same time, we know that, again, thanks to the work of the gun rights lobby, there's not even a computerized system to keep track of guns that are used in the commission of crimes. How much does that hamper the work that you do here?

JONES: Well, ironically, I think we have been able to do the job, not as well as we could, because we're really operating with 20th century technology in the 21st century. There are things that we could do, fully aware that it is against the law for us to do anything approaching a national gun registry. And that's been the fact since the Firearms Owner Protection Act. So we have a lot of folks in Martinsburg, West Virginia, who are very responsive to our gun trace program.

Could we do it better with a little bit more open-mindedness and less of a fear factor that we're going to do something that would violate the law? Yes. Are we doing the job right now that we need to do? Yes.

Then Woodruff turned to lost or stolen guns, but definitely not the ones lost in Mexico:

WOODRUFF: Well, I ask you because, as you know -- you know these statistics better than I do -- from 2004 to 2011, the rate of lost or stolen guns rose 18 percent, a total of almost 175,000 firearms unaccounted for. That was the ATF's responsibility.

JONES: Well, I mean...

 WOODRUFF: I'm asking, was it the ATF's responsibility?

Without any fear of an Obama scandal question, Jones declared “unlike a loaf of bread or anything else, there's no expiration date on a gun. And so one of our challenges is to really figure out ways to drain that illegal crime gun pool. And that's very difficult, because the convergence of that very deeply held belief in the Second Amendment constitutional rights of Americans, as the Supreme Court has stated in recent case law, that Second Amendment right, we don't believe should butt up against our responsibilities for public safety, because our focus really is on that illegal crime gun pool.”

Woodruff then just turned to the next gun-control question, about 3-D printer guns.

This cooperative "state-run media" tone is certainly not how Woodruff interviewed NRA president David Keene in January. She demanded that "reasonable people" needed to find common ground with Obama and the gun controllers. There was one similiarity. She skipped "Fast & Furious" questions then, too.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis