There was widespread disgust and heartbreak a few months ago when it was learned that a federal sting had deliberately allowed firearms to fall into the hands of drug traffickers in Mexico -- with deadly results.
The idea was to let the guns be sold to lower-level traffickers then try to track them to the "big fish" in Mexican drug cartels.
But the sting went horribly wrong. Hundreds of the weapons wound up at crime scenes, including one found near the body of a murdered U.S. Border Patrol agent, Brian Terry.
Making matters worse, no leaders of the cartels were arrested in the sting.
The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has acknowledged that the sting was riddled with mistakes, and Congress has opened an investigation.
Recently, moreover, the acting director of the ATF and the U.S. attorney in Arizona resigned in connection with the failed sting.
Those resignations appear to be necessary, but they will be of little comfort to those who were harmed by the unsuccessful federal operation.
Catching drug traffickers is important, but common sense was left behind in this particular sting. Congress should ask hard questions until it finds out how things went so wrong.