Between 2006 and 2011, the ATF’s Project Gunrunner attempted to track straw purchases and illegal gun trafficking to Mexican drug cartels. Since a database of gun sales isn’t allowed in America, and loose gun regulation, particularly in the state of Arizona, makes it almost impossible to prevent large gun sales and trafficking, the ATF had to work with a patchwork of local regulations to monitor and track gun sales to illegal parties. Around 2000 guns were sold and attempted to be monitored as part of the program, but only a few small-time illegal gun sellers were actually arrested. As a result of internal disputes, many guns went untracked, though the ATF never intended for those guns to “walk” out of their control, as discovered by a six-month investigation by Fortune magazine. One federal agent, Brian Terry, was killed with one of those guns, as well as an unknown number of Mexican citizens. Only around 700 of those guns have since been recovered.
The project was clearly a failure, with tragic consequences, but the NRA came up with a more extreme conspiracy theory. According to them, Operation Fast and Furious, led by President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, intentionally allowed thousands of guns to go into Mexico, hoping that the deaths of innocents would give more reason to pass stricter gun laws here in the United States and attack the Second Amendment. This, despite the fact that there is no evidence whatsoever that President Obama had any knowledge of the workings of the program, or any evidence that Holder was in control of the program, and despite the findings of Katherine Eban for a Fortune Magazine investigation that no guns were intentionally allowed to “walk” by the ATF.
Nonetheless, FOX News was quick to pick up the conspiracy and advertise it as news as well as GOP pundits like Rush Limbaugh, and certain conservative GOP politicians, such as Rep. Darrell Issa, Republican chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
“The whole point, don't forget, the whole point of Fast and Furious was to create mayhem in Mexico among drug cartels with American-made weapons easily procured so that you and I would stand up in outrage and demand tighter gun laws. It was deceitful. It was sneaky. It was going against the will of the American people. It was liberalism on parade. It's who these people are. They want tighter gun laws. Folks, I want to make this as simple as I can. They created crimes. There's no other way to characterize this. They created, they manufactured crime. They enabled crimes. They saw to it that American guns ended up in Mexican drug cartel hands. And, of course, those people get the guns, they use them. When, in fact, it probably was difficult for the drug cartels to get the guns. It probably was not easy for the drug cartels to get the guns. Certainly not walking into gun stores in Phoenix and elsewhere, then crossing the border.
“So they set that up. They created crimes. It would be no different than if they wanted to ban airplanes, to engineer a bunch of crashes. I'm trying to think of a smart analogy to give you. If this bunch wanted all airplanes grounded, sabotage a bunch so they crash, and the people of the country demand that all airplanes be grounded. They wanted these guns that were used in these crimes to come from America.”
After the Fortune magazine investigation by Katherine Eban, one blog post by the People for the American Way summarized it thusly:
Eban’s reporting unearthed absolutely no evidence that the tactic of “gun walking”, which Rep. Issa and his allies continue to put front and center, was ever actually in play. “The ATF's accusers seem untroubled by evidence that the policy they have pilloried didn't actually exist”.
Predicated upon erroneous and misleading information, the Fast and Furious ‘scandal’ is heavy on political intrigue, yet light on substance.
Just to pound a nail in the coffin of this conspiracy theory, a report by Michael Horowitz, the Department of Justice inspector general, influenced by Eban's investigation, also found no evidence that knowledge of the ATF program ever reached the level of Holder, much less the President, prior to the end of the program, and that there was no conspiracy to reduce gun rights.
For over a year, it's been an article of faith on the right that Fast and Furious was a carefully constructed scheme directed by the White House to trash the Second Amendment and build support for more gun control laws. It wasn't. Neither the White House nor Eric Holder had any idea what was going on. It was just a local operation that was badly botched. This makes Fast and Furious officially yet another lunatic conservative conspiracy theory that has bitten the dust in the cold light of reality.
Just another wacko pro-gun conspiracy theory!
Just another wacko pro-gun conspiracy theory!