|Hoyer Misfires With Fast and Furious Criticism|
By Ashton Ellis
Thursday, June 28 2012
Anticipating defections among his ranks, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) tried to put gun rights advocates on the defensive ahead of Thursday’s bipartisan vote to hold U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress. What Hoyer did instead was underscore how criminally culpable is the Obama Administration’s role in the Fast and Furious scandal.
For Hoyer, the underlying problem with Fast and Furious isn’t that the Obama-era federal law enforcement program deliberately “walked” 2,000 guns into the hands of Mexican drug cartels for the purpose of tracing them to criminals at crime scenes. It’s that gun rights advocates are trying to have it both ways.
Commenting to the press on Tuesday, Hoyer faulted conservatives for being inconsistent. “The premise is that somehow letting these guns go across the border resulted in this tragic death [i.e., the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry]. [But] people kill people, not guns, I’m told on a regular basis.”
Hoyer continued: “And controlling guns – whether it’s assault weapons or others – would not solve the problem, I am told by some. So [gun control] legislation is not necessary because it is people who kill people. I hope you see the contradiction in the positions being taken.”
Hoyer was referencing the familiar – and true – argument from the National Rifle Association and other gun rights groups that the ultimate responsibility for violence committed with guns rests not with the instrument, but with the person using it.
Apparently lost on Hoyer is that there is absolutely no contradiction in what conservatives, the NRA and others argue about the culpability for gun violence then and now.
People kill people. In the criminal liability context, that’s as true for the person squeezing the trigger as it is for the person who gave him the gun knowing he’d commit a crime with it.
Without realizing it, Hoyer is helping to justify the main reason Holder was held in contempt of Congress.
By refusing to disclose documents about internal Justice Department deliberations in Fast and Furious, the Attorney General is blocking the public’s right to know who to hold accountable for the deaths of Agent Terry and scores of Mexicans.
Indeed, last week’s decision by the Obama White House to assert executive privilege over documents sought by congressional investigators only heightens the suspicion that Holder has something to hide.
The evidence made public thus far indicates what it might be.
Throughout the investigation into Fast and Furious, gun rights advocates have suspected that gun controllers in the Obama Administration would link heightened gun violence with more stringent gun control laws.
House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA), the lead investigator into Fast and Furious, said as much to Jake Tapper of ABC News last Sunday when he claimed to possess “emails from people involved in this that are talking about using what they’re finding here to support the – basically assault-weapons ban or greater reporting.”
Issa was likely referencing email exchanges that occurred in July 2010 and January 2011 between officials at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the agency in charge of Fast and Furious.
The first email shows a Washington, D.C.-based ATF manager interested in using sales under the Fast and Furious program as “anecdotal” evidence to support increased gun control “on long gun multiple sales.”
The second congratulates the Phoenix-based Special Agent in Charge of Fast and Furious for linking multiple gun sales to the need for greater gun control at a press conference announcing arrests during the operation.
To date, no emails have been released to the public documenting a similar intent by higher echelon officials at the Department of Justice. But that hardly means the concerns of gun rights advocates are misplaced.
Field agents and their managers are routinely called on as fact-finders by policymakers in the executive and legislative branches because their experience and analysis is seen as a frontline perspective of what’s really going on. In many cases, laws are shaped by the information presented by those on the ground.
But what if an ATF manager and the Phoenix Special Agent in Charge agree to repackage their gunrunning operation into an anecdotal narrative reinforcing the prejudices of their political superiors? Who in Eric Holder’s ideologically driven Justice Department would vet the evidence?
It may be true that no one at ATF or in the Justice Department created Fast and Furious to inflate gun violence statistics as a means to compel tighter gun control laws. But it is demonstrably obvious that at least two federal agents saw the connection after the operation began.
One doesn’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to think that part of the reason Holder and the White House are refusing to share documents is that some of them probably show DOJ brass with knowledge and perhaps even approval of the ATF agents’ spin.
On the Tuesday before the contempt vote, Steny Hoyer said, “"The fact of the matter is [that Brian Terry’s] life was tragically lost because there are some criminals on both sides of the border who facilitate violent criminal behavior."
No doubt the 17 House Democrats who crossed the aisle on Thursday to join 238 Republicans in voting Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress agreed.
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