The latest iteration comes in the form of the so-called “Fast and Furious” investigation, in which chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Darrell Issa, alleged that the Obama administration had allowed the ATF to “walk guns” across the border to Mexico in order to catch “bigger fish.” According to their narrative one of these weapons then ended up at the murder scene of a Border Patrol agent named Brian Terry.
Welp, it turns out that not only is that all a crock, but that the actual culprit of the story is Republican-backed, National Rifle Association-sponsored legislation and lobbying that has turned Arizona into a gun-smuggler’s paradise.
According to an extensive investigation by Fortune Magazine, the only person who actually walked guns was the so-called whistleblower John Dodson, who appeared on CBS News and who got his narrative massaged into the mainstream media by right-wing blogs and House Republicans. Meanwhile, the firearms that ended up at Terry's murder scene weren’t being walked by the ATF, but the straw purchasers who bought them were under surveillance.
The ATF couldn’t stop the guns from going across the border, however, because Arizona’s gun laws are those of Third World failed state.
Some background: the Sinaloa drug cartel has essentially made Phoenix, Arizona, the Wal-Mart of its gun-running operations. The approximately 50,000 Mexicans slaughtered in the last half decade by drug violence mostly fell victim to guns and bullets flowing from the United States along the “river of iron”. The Arizona political establishment, the NRA, and the cartels have basically formed an unspoken alliance in this feat. In Arizona, there is no waiting period and no need for a permit to buy a gun. All you have to do is be 18 years-old and not have a criminal background. Cartels recruit Americans to buy guns, and the Mexican government estimates that 2,000 weapons cross the border Every Single Day. Furthermore, the NRA has successfully crippled the ATF by opposing the creation of an electronic database to track guns. There isn’t even a federal statute that makes gun-trafficking illegal. The ATF describes kids not even old enough to drink a beer walking into one of the 853 Phoenix-area gun dealers and paying $20,000 for 20 semi-automatics at a time. It’s then perfectly legal for them to walk outside and sell the weapons to someone else for a dollar (or presumably, a Tic-Tac).
It’s in this atmosphere of gun deregulation insanity, that the ATF has basically no power to arrest anyone for trafficking guns. The Fast and Furious investigation—far from being the nefarious sting operation depicted by Republicans—got to the point where agents were trying to arrest a straw purchaser for misusing public assistance because he was on food stamps while spending $300,000 on firearms.
Anyway, that’s the gist of the story, but I highly recommend you read Fortune’s breathtaking report. It’s a frightening glimpse into what the Second Amendment-craze has wrought.
I always find these people basically beyond comprehension. I mean, even if you’re someone who really loves his gun, how does establishing an electronic database to track weapons in order to catch murderers threaten that right? Unless you’re a whackjob conspiracy theorist who thinks Obama has a secret plan to swoop in and confiscate every firearm in the United States—Ah, I guess I just answered my own question.
In this light, the vote of contempt for Attorney General Eric Holder looks like as much of a partisan witch hunt as he's been claiming this entire time. Comparisons to Bush-era intransigence on illegal wiretapping or political firings in the Justice Department (among about thirteen examples) now looke extremely glib and lazy. Democrats and the President should probably let Issa and his committee drag this story out in the light because it's about to blow up in their faces.