Published July 6, 2011 at TheAtlantic.com.
Law enforcement is failing to prevent American guns from fueling the war on our southern border. Maybe it’s time to consider limiting the guns themselves.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) has come under fire for a controversial anti-gun trafficking operation known as “Fast and Furious.” On June 14, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa and Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Senator Chuck Grassley released a report detailing how the ATF allowed straw purchasers to acquire up to 2,000 guns on behalf of Mexican drug cartels in 2009 and 2010. ATF leadership argued that by waiting for the guns to appear at crime scenes in Mexico, the operation would allow the agency to “connect the dots” and bring down higher-ups in the cartels’ structures. In other words, they chose not to arrest small-scale gun runners in the hopes that letting them go would lead them to bigger fish. However, only 20 straw purchasers have been indicted thus far, many of whom had already been under suspicion. Meanwhile, two of these guns turned up at the fatal 2009 shooting of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. Not only was Fast and Furious ineffective, the report concludes — its failure was deadly.
The ATF’s apparent disregard for the second and third order effects of this operation are troubling. But Fast and Furious points to a larger problem: the role of American firearms in Mexico’s drug war and the abdication of American responsibility for them. A Congressional report released June 9 by Democratic Senators Dianne Feinstein, Charles Schumer, and Sheldon Whitehouse concluded that American weapons are fueling drug violence in Mexico, and that U.S. policymakers have not responded adequately. While there are legitimate questions about what percentage of drug cartels’ guns came from American federal firearms licensees, over 20,000 firearms found at Mexican crime scenes in 2009 and 2010 were proven to have come from the U.S. This, of course, does not include the unknowable number of U.S.-sourced weapons still in the hands of drug cartels.
Read more at TheAtlantic.com.