published Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

Gun-running gone amuck

The U.S. border with Mexico is known as much for the smuggling of drugs into the United States as it is for the smuggling of illegal immigrants. It is less well known for the massive smuggling of guns from southwestern American guns stores to Mexico, particularly the lethal military-style assault rifles that have helped fuel the drug cartel wars that are responsible for killing more than 40,000 in Mexico since 2006.

Since the 2004 repeal of the U.S. assault-weapons ban, the federal enforcers of America’s meager gun laws, the agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, have been swimming upstream trying to root out the straw purchasers of assault rifles and other weapons and ammunition that form the flood of weaponry from the U.S. into Mexico. Figures compiled by Mexico, according to a report by The New York Times, reveal that tens of thousands of weapons seized from drug cartels in the past four years — and three out of five assault weapons — came mainly from the United States.

It is that history, coupled with the absence of U.S. laws that could help identify or restrict the availability of weapons to straw purchasers in America, that apparently spawned the “Fast and Furious” operation to monitor gun-running. That operation has now become the controversial target of a House investigation.

The operation apparently was flawed, in that it monitored some gun traffickers, rather than arresting them, in an attempt to trace the route of weapons from underling gun-runners to the major purchasers of the weapons in Mexico. The apparent goal may have stemmed from a 2010 audit by the Justice Department which criticized the ATF for arresting too many small buyers in the U.S. instead of tracking down the major purchasers for criminal organizations and drug cartels.

In any case, Fast and Furious apparently went bad in one tragic way: two of the guns being tracked were confiscated in connection with the shooting death of a U.S. Border Patrol agent, Brian A. Terry, in Arizona in 2010. His death, and information from ATF whistle-blowers about the nature of Fast and Furious, have generated intense criticism against the ATF for allowing monitoring of guns being transferred across the border instead of stopping and arresting the gun-runners.

House Republicans have good reason to investigate what went wrong and what should be done to improve the ATF’s enforcement strategies. But it is clearly obvious that the Republicans in control of the hearing want to attack and weaken, rather than strengthen, the ATF and its operational capacity. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., sharply cut off testimony about gun-control legislation.

Advocates of reasonable gun control, including members of the ATF, have contended for years that better records of gun sales and timely access to those records would help them monitor and interdict straw purchases and major gun-running operations. Indeed, a number of record-keeping improvements — including mandatory background checks on all weapons purchases at the nation’s currently wide-open gunshows — along with monthly limits on legal purchases would allow ATF officials to begin to get a grip on gun-running, from state to state and across borders.

Republicans, and the National Rifle Association, which leads the GOP’s anti-gun-law positions, have refused to consider or accept reasonable restrictions on largely unregulated weapons sales and advanced technology to trace ballistic patterns and ammunition. As long as their anti-control agenda holds sway, the ATF will have to function with its hands tied behind its back.

The hearings should not excuse the ATF for a flawed operation. But they also should not pre-empt the possibility of laws on gun sales that would mitigate the appalling violence in Mexico and on the streets of America that results from the absence of sane gun control.

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Gaff said...

After reading this article it is hard not to question the motivation of the author. It is not the first time I observed a decidedly derogatory slant on our 2nd amendment rights issued from this "publication" and I use that term loosely. How does the Gunwalker Scandal equate to even more laws on law abiding citizens? Here is the Readers Digest version of what the Free Times press failed to tell you.

There are five key accusations against ATF and DOJ made by ATF whistle blowers and other sources within Fed Gov:

  1. That they instructed U.S. gun dealers to proceed with questionable and illegal sales of firearms to suspected gunrunners.

  2. That they allowed or even assisted in those guns crossing the U.S. border into Mexico to "boost the numbers" of American civilian market firearms seized in Mexico and thereby provide the justification for more firearm restrictions on American citizens and more power and money for ATF.

  3. That they intentionally kept Mexican authorities in the dark about the operation, even over objections of their own agents.

  4. That weapons that the ATF let "walk" to Mexico were involved in the deaths of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and ICE agent Jaime Zapata, as well as at least hundreds of Mexican citizens.

  5. That at least since the death of Brian Terry on 14 December, there has been a full-press cover-up of the facts behind what has come to be known as the "Gunwalker Scandal."

Do your homework people. google "a journalist's guide to project gunwalker" How would even one new law on the people stop the atrocities and utter disregard for the law displayed by the ATF?

June 22, 2011 at 1:08 p.m.
acerigger said...

The sad thing is, its not that we didn’t expect this story to come out, but that it was only a matter of time.A chief Republican critic of a controversial U.S. anti-gun-trafficking operation was briefed on ATF’s “Fast and Furious” program last year and did not express any opposition, sources familiar with the classified briefing said Tuesday.Rep. Darrell Issa (Calif.), who has repeatedly called for top Justice Department officials to be held accountable for the now-defunct operation, was given highly specific information about it at an April 2010 briefing, the sources said. Members of his staff also attended the session, which Issa and two other Republican congressmen had requested.Fake outrage is what they do. That’s why they have a fake news channel.

June 23, 2011 at 4:18 a.m.
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