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Too fast, too furious

Eric Robinson | Thursday, December 1, 2011

Here’s an idea: let’s arm known weapons traffickers in the hopes of tracing the weapons back to Mexican drug cartels. Sounds absurd, right? Not according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATFE) and the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Project Gunrunner.

Project Gunrunner and Operation Fast and Furious was launched with the goal of tracking “straw buyers”: people who could legally purchase weapons in the United States and in turn illegally transport them to Mexico to sell to drug cartels. By forcing gun shops to sell to these individuals rather than report them and have them arrested, the BATFE hoped the straw buyers and weapons would lead them within the Mexican drug cartel hierarchy.

On Dec. 14, 2010, Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was shot and killed while conducting a Border Control Tactical Unit Operation in Arizona. Two of the guns found at the crime scene had matching serial numbers to guns that were purchased by Jaime Avila, a suspected straw buyer who was being monitored by the BATFE after purchasing large quantities of assault rifles at a Phoenix-area gun shop.

Since the “gun-walking” operations for Project Gunrunner began back in 2006, American agents Brian Terry and Jaime Zapata have been murdered with fast and furious guns. Furthermore, over 200 Mexican lives have been claimed with weapons traced back to Operation Fast and Furious.

Rather than lead law enforcement to Mexican drug kingpins, fast and furious operations wound up increasing the firepower of cartels and drug-related violence with the more than 2,000 weapons that were “walked” across our border.

Rep. Darrell Issa and Sen. Charles Grassley have teamed up to investigate Project Gunrunner and to hold the individuals within the BATFE and DOJ accountable for the failed operation. Pressure has piled on Attorney General Eric Holder, who is responsible for the BATFE, regarding his knowledge of Project Gunrunner and why the failed project was approved in the first place. While Holder denies knowledge of the gun-walking operation, subpoenaed memos and emails sent to Holder’s office show that top Justice Department officials had received at least partial briefings.

Such a program never should have been permitted to exist. Who will be held accountable?

Eric Robinson



Dec. 1