By: Amy Lutz
There is no doubt that the Mexican-American border is a war zone. Unfortunately; however, this conflict takes place on a battlefield no one seems to know how to control. Border security and illegal immigration have tripped up politicians on both sides of the aisle. In fact, Rick Perry’s presidential campaign is quickly losing momentum as voters learn more about his stance on the contentious issue. Yet, Perry’s stance on in-state tuition for illegal immigrants is nothing compared to the “Fast and Furious” scandal currently being debated on Capitol Hill. The ATF’s Operation Fast and Furious, which put firearms in the hands of Mexican drug cartels, shows clearly how irresponsibility on our border can be not just dangerous, but deadly.
To fully understand Operation Fast and Furious, it is first important to understand the context and background behind the plan which recently sparked a Congressional Hearing. In April 2009, in between rounds of golf on a trip to Mexico, President Obama stated the following: “This war (on the border) is being waged not here but in the United States…more than 90% of the guns recovered in Mexico come from the United States, many from gun shops that lay in our shared border.” That statistic is shocking to say the least and could be used as justification for a crackdown on gun storeowners. Well, it could be if it were true. Actually, the President’s statistic was based solely on firearms that the Mexican government returned to the ATF for tracing. Mexican officials only send guns to the ATF that they assume originated from our country; therefore, it’s very likely that the 1/3 of guns the Mexican government sends to the ATF are primarily from the United States. However, remember that is only a small portion of the firearms actually retrieved. According to a Fox News investigation, only about 17% of the guns retrieve at Mexican crime scenes are from the United States.
Taking into account this administration’s history of “accuracy” it’s no surprise that faulty statistical data did not halt the Federal Government from acting out on the President’s message. Before Operation Fast and Furious officially took shape, ATF agents got the ball rolling on the plan by turning up the heat on gun storeowners in Arizona in September 2009. The ATF pressured these businesspeople to sell firearms to straw purchasers (people who buy goods to sell to others who cannot buy the goods on their own) who they assumed would deliver the weapons to Mexican drug cartels. The gun storeowners had little say in the matter. The ATF has the right to shut them down, so many were unable to resist the pressure. Most were forced to look the other way when it came to selling firearms to suspicious consumers. In fact, of the 20 smugglers under investigation by the Fast and Furious investigation (currently ongoing), 2 had prior felony convictions. Gun storeowners are required to run gun purchasers’ names through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, so if they followed procedure, it’s likely that they were aware of this fact.
In October 2009, the ATF’s above mentioned tactics were turned into an official operation. The Phoenix Field Division of the ATF developed a gun-trafficking group called “Group VII” which put “gunwalking” practices into play. Gunwalking is a strategic tactic which includes allowing suspects to walk away with illegally purchased guns without prosecution. According to a recent report from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee led by Representative Darrell Issa: “The purpose was to wait and watch, in hope that law enforcement could identify other members of a trafficking network using the new gunwalking tactics in one of its investigations to further the Department’s strategy.” It was a risky strategy to say the least and in December 2010, that risk resulted in horrific consequences.
Stay tuned for "America's Car Crash Part 2: Deadly Consequences."