Faced with bracing evidence and the testimony of four ATF agents contradicting the Justice Department’s initial blanket denials that assault weapons were knowingly allowed to escape into the clutches of Mexican drug cartels, Democrats tried a new approach at a hearing Wednesday.

Rather than focus on questioning the GOP’s investigative tactics, Democrats on the House Oversight Committee sought to subtly channel the burgeoning scandal into a push for new gun control laws.

For instance, Rep. Gerry Connolly, Virginia Democrat, connected the apparently reckless investigative strategy to the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) lobbying pushes.

“The NRA has opposed regulations which would require tracking of multiple gun sales,” Connolly noted in a statement passed out to reporters. “The gun lobby and its advocates in Congress are even trying to pass legislation to eviscerate the ATF’s authority to stop criminals.”

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