-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger
Katherine Eban of Fortune has published the results of a six-month investigation into the Fast and Furious scandal that turns the previous narrative on its head. Eban notes a fundamental misconception at the heart of the scandal: while no one disputes that straw purchasers repeatedly bought guns that fell into the hands of criminals, “five law-enforcement agents directly involved in Fast and Furious tell Fortune that the ATF had no such tactic.”
Eban points out the irony of Republicans, who support the National Rifle Association’s attempts to weaken gun laws, chiding the ATF for not interdicting enough guns.
Eban’s investigation reveals a poorly funded ATF operation, antagonism among the agents, and local gun laws that make straw purchases all but impossible to prosecute. One suspect had legally purchased 476 firearms for more than $300,000 while accepting food stamps. Another suspect, who was jobless, paid more than $10,000 for a 50-caliber rifle.
However, the assistant U.S. Attorney said that agents did not have probable cause to confiscate the weapons. A spokesman of Rep. Issa asserts that even if agents were following prosecutors’ directives, “the practice is nonetheless gun walking.” Such an admission is a serious walk-back. What did Issa expect the agents to do? Illegally seize lawfully purchased guns?
Under Arizona law, it is perfectly legal to buy as many guns as you can afford as long as you’re 18 or older and pass a criminal background check. The Phoenix area is home to 853 federally licensed firearms dealers who advertise volume discounts on billboards. Just 200 miles from Mexico, drug cartels have recruited young Americans as straw purchasers. It is a boom time for Arizona firearms dealers.
There still remains troubling questions concerning a few gun dealers ordered by the ATF to sell guns to every illegal purchaser with wads of cash who walked through their doors. The ATF had set up surveillance cameras in the ceiling of one store with promises to follow the guns. It was from this store that Jaime Avila, a transient, legally purchased guns that later showed up at the scene of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry’s murder.
With 853 gun dealers in Phoenix alone, the seven-agent Fast and Furious team never stood a chance. Straw purchases are hard to prove and carry minimal penalties so prosecutors are not motivated to pursue these kinds of cases.
There is much more detail in Eban’s must read article.
– Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger –