Should I wax Shakesperian? Much Ado About Nothing

Or should I wane Gertrude Steinish? There is no there there.

It appears there is much less to the Fast and Furious gun sales controversy than meets the eye.

This article from Fortune presents the results of a months long investigation and concludes that the public’s perception has been fashioned by a narrative that

…is replete with distortions, errors, partial truths, and even some outright lies.

Since this program was centered in Arizona make sure you understand that anyone over the age of eighteen who passes a criminal background check can legally buy guns with no permit and no waiting period and in unlimited numbers. Thereafter they can resell them freely.

Thus Mexican drug cartel members found it easy to recruit young folks as straw purchasers. It was not unusual for someone to obtain 20 assault rifles with $20,000 in cash.

Now this program under the ATF (Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms) agency has been accused of purposely allowing these gun sales to take place and the guns to cross the border in hopes and expectations that both the straw purchasers and drug cartel kingpins who ended up with the guns would be prosecuted.

Fast and Furious came to light as a result of events in December of 2010. Border agent Brian Terry was slain in an attack along the Arizona border and some guns were left behind. The weapon that caused his death was traced back to one of these straw purchases.

Thus, understandably, a program that had dubious merits for several reasons though its main purpose may have been supportable, now generated outrage in the halls of Congress and within elements of the public.

Despite conflicting statements both from the White House and Eric Holder, the Attorney General, in which there is at least some admission of this scenario, Fortune’s investigation casts doubt on this.

But five law-enforcement agents directly involved in Fast and Furious tell Fortune that the ATF had no such tactic. They insist they never purposefully allowed guns to be illegally trafficked. Just the opposite: They say they seized weapons whenever they could but were hamstrung by prosecutors and weak laws, which stymied them at every turn.

Moreover Fast and Furious did not spring from the loins of the ATF as a fully formed newborn. Its genesis derives from “Operation Wide Receiver” dating from 2006.

Here is some context from the latter program from some participants.

A gun shop owner details his dealings with ATF and information is provided noting the failure of Wide Receiver to achieve its goals.

Let us explore more background factors that influence the current Congressional investigation and intertwine with Presidential politics.

In 2008 the National Rifle Association (NRA) campaigned hard against Barack Obama, to the extent that it’s 10 points ads alleging what Obama would do with guns if elected were basically divorced from reality.

See, e.g. this analysis:

The NRA is again attacking Obama on guns in 2012 with falsehoods:

Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the committee conducting the probe, has made the absurd claim (and not the only absurd claim he’s made against Obama) that the administration essentially wanted Fast and Furious to fail so that more extreme gun control measures could be passed. This claim has been echoed by many on the right, none of them offering a scintilla of evidence to support this theory.

So now, let’s examine Fast and Furious in context.

It is not an original or stand alone program but a successor to earlier ones within the Bush administration designed to deal with a real and thorny problem of drug cartels’ access to weapons.

Due to laws and prosecutorial reticence, under neither the Bush nor Obama administrations has there been more than limited success in prosecuting anyone connected to these straw party sales.

It is questionable whether the ATF ever allowed guns to be “walked” i.e. trafficked illegally.

The contradictory statements coming from the Obama administration seem to arise from, at least in part, a desire to deflect or avoid an impression that he wants more control of guns as charged by the NRA and its backers.

The current brouhaha over the AG’s congressional testimony and response to request from documents, now culminating in the assertion of Executive Privilege, is at its heart a manufactured controversy purely political in nature that seeks to pose the President in the least favorable light. If not for the unfortunate tragedy of the killing of agent Brian Terry, it is doubtful that the probe would have garnered enough traction to survive this long.

Invoking a person’s death into a controversy over questionable policies is a sure attention getter. You will always be reminded of Terry’s death when needed to bolster your case against Fast and Furious since, in its previous incarnations with a similar success rate (low) and identical motivations and tactics under a different President never alleged to be a gun control fanatic, fortuitously no known murders of upstanding Americans occurred then that can be traced to those guns, though it’s difficult to believe no one was killed with these weapons, even if only rival drug gang members.

My advice is to slow down, not be so furious, and look at the facts. Then the next time Issa’s committee meets you can stroll by his Congressional office and see the sign on the door “Gone Fishin'”.

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