|Gunrunner Scandal Beating a Path to AG Holder’s Door|
By Ashton Ellis
Wednesday, May 04 2011
How do you go from pushing Congress for a permanent assault weapons ban to letting military-style guns “walk” into the hands of Mexican drug cartels? If you are U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, extreme swings in regulation aren’t just costing gun sellers peace of mind – they are costing lives on both sides of the border.
On February 25, 2009, Eric Holder told reporters that he believed a permanent assault weapons ban was needed in part to stem the tide of guns flowing into the Mexican drug war. The newly minted U.S. Attorney General said at the time, “I think that will have a positive impact in Mexico, at a minimum.”
Later in 2009, Holder’s underlings blew a hole in that argument. Following common sense, Arizona gun store owners contacted the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to report suspicious buyers. Some paid with cash for expensive guns; others brought paper bags to conceal their purchases.
The response from ATF was bewildering. Brad Desaye, owner of J & G Gun Sales in Prescott, AZ, repeatedly asked ATF agents for direction on selling guns to suspicious buyers. “[W]e would say – ‘Do you want us to stop selling? Is there something we should do here?’ And they would say ‘No, no, no – continue selling – just tell us after the fact,’” Desaye told Fox News.
The reason ATF agents didn’t want to stop the sale of guns was novel: By letting the guns “walk” across the border, ATF officials could nab bigger criminals in Mexican drug cartels. Thus were born Project Gunrunner and Operation Fast and Furious, joint operations between ATF and Holder’s Justice Department.
Conducted in 2010, Fast and Furious made a mockery of the ban Holder said he wanted to reinstate. Unable to get Congress to make the assault weapons ban permanent, Holder and ATF went to the other extreme: actively encouraging gun store owners to sell hundreds of guns to known straw buyers for Mexican drug cartels.
So far, evidence uncovered by Fox News’ William Lajeunesse shows that federal officials were “aware of more than 1,000 weapons sold from 10 Arizona gun stores to roughly 50 straw buyers” for Mexican drug cartels. During the operation, superiors at ATF told field agents not to worry about letting the guns move freely among criminals because the guns were being tracked.
Former ATF agents, however, say the bureau was not able to track the guns once they crossed the border. Instead, weapons recovered at Mexican crime scenes started matching guns sold with the knowledge and support of federal officials.
Then came December 14, 2010. That night, Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed during a gun battle near a known smuggling route on the Arizona-Mexico border. Two of the guns recovered at the scene had serial numbers matching those allowed to walk out of ATF’s view.
Unsurprisingly, Holder and the gun control lobby have tried to avoid talking about the “gunwalking” scandal. And why not? Gun control laws do nothing to discourage criminals from obtaining weapons deprived from law-abiding citizens. But Holder’s Justice Department takes distortions caused by government intervention to a new level. By knowingly allowing Mexican drug cartels to buy American guns, Holder and his gun-control patrons have lost all credibility when arguing that government officials can be trusted to regulate with commonsense.
Congress has noticed. House Government Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) are stepping up pressure on Holder to explain his knowledge of and involvement in Fast and Furious. Instead of practicing transparency, Holder is stonewalling.
That strategy will not save Holder from tough questions like the ones he received from Issa in a May 3rd hearing. Holder took offense when Issa asked whether or not “the Justice Department is basically guilty of allowing weapons to kill American and Mexicans.” Issa’s response: “But what if it’s accurate, Mr. Attorney General?”
Holder is betting that claiming ignorance and refusing to cooperate with Issa’s and Grassley’s congressional investigations will keep the facts from view. However, Issa may not need cooperation.
Congressional investigators now possess transcribed interviews with ATF agents flatly contradicting Holder’s claim in a letter sent February 4, 2011 that ATF and the Justice Department make “every effort to interdict weapons that have been purchased illegally and to prevent their transportation to Mexico.”
As with the border fence and illegal immigration, Holder and ATF don’t need new laws to regulate the buying and selling of guns. They just need to enforce the laws that exist.
It’s often said that guns don’t kill people – people do. As the “gunwalking” scandal is showing, sometimes it’s not even necessary to pull the trigger.
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