House Democrats, attempting to shield Attorney General Eric Holder from a contempt citation today, made a call for enhanced gun control laws the focus of their statements during the hearing this morning.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., set the tone by citing the testimony of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) officers who called for tighter regulations. “The problem they were worried about was not paperwork and subpoenas and contempt charges, they were worried about guns!” Maloney said. “ATF witnesses consistently told this committee that they need reinforcements to the weak federal laws that prohibit gun-trafficking.”

Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., also attacked Republicans over gun control. “Nowhere have we had a hearing on whether or not our gun laws are sufficient at the southern part of our border to address the overwhelming flow of weapons from the United States to Mexico,” he said, noting that the Mexican attorney general had called for the U.S. to reinstate and assault weapons ban.

Like Maloney after them, the ATF officials involved in running Operation Fast and Furious used the gun sales they oversaw in order to call for gun control. “We are looking at anecdotal cases to support a demand letter on long gun multiple sales,” ATF Field Ops Assistant Director Mark Chait emailed to Bill Newell, the Special Agent in charge of Operation Fast and Furious in Phoenix, as CBS reported. “[T]his case could be a strong supporting factor if we can determine how many multiple sales of long guns occurred during the course of this case.”

In Operation Fast and Furious, ATF officers encouraged the sale of assault weapons to drug cartels in Mexico — even allowing those weapons to be smuggled across the border — until an American border patrol officer was murdered in December 2010 by drug smugglers armed by Fast and Furious.