The Rundown on "Fast and Furious"

The Rundown on "Fast and Furious"

Border Patrol agent Brian Terry was killed by an AK-47 that was put in the hands of his murders by the ATF's ill-advised "gun walking" operation -- Fast and Furious.

With the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee recommending U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder be held in Contempt of Congress, and President Obama citing "Executive Privilege" and refusing to turn over numerous documents the congressional investigative committee has requested as part of their investigation into Operation Fast and Furious, this governmental debacle is all over the news. Gun owners should pay particular attention.

The mainstream media has done their best to ignore or downplay this scandal, and a sure sign that is no longer working is the push in the past few days to blame this scandal on George W. Bush, just like he's been blamed by the Democrats and the media for the current state of the economy, the price of gas, the housing market collapse, global warming, and the failure of Madonna's most recent album.

The media is currently shouting how Bush was doing this kind of thing with Operation Wide Receiver before Obama and Holder started Fast and Furious. My mother always told me that just because another kid is doing something stupid is no excuse for me doing the same thing, but let's look at the facts.

The BATF began running "gunwalking" sting operations in 2006, during President Bush's second term. The umbrella was Project Gunrunner, something the ATF decided to do because of complaints that all they ever did was harass FFL holders for minor violations. The idea behind Project Gunrunner was to track down and arrest people for illegal gun trafficking, specifically high-level members of Mexican drug cartels. The idea was to track the guns that were "allowed" to be bought by straw purchasers to higher-level traffickers, leading to their arrest. This was described as "gunwalking".

Operation Wide Receiver was the first "gunwalking" operations, and it ran from 2006-2007. The ATF worked with one FFL dealer, Mike Detty, who originally contacted them about a suspicious sale. Through him they arranged a "sting" where a total of 450 guns were sold. A number of the guns had RFID tracking devices installed in them, and no guns were knowingly allowed to go into Mexico without direct surveillance. For shipments heading across the border, Mexican authorities were notified where and when and were supposed to interdict them.

Many people inside the ATF thought this was a very risky program, and it was. They soon lost track of many of the guns, as the smugglers discovered the RFID tags and removed them. Also, the Mexican authorities, who were supposed to be cooperating, proved less helpful than had been hoped, and didn't stop a number of cross-border shipments. Due to a lack of success, the ATF shut down this operation in 2007. While a handful of people have been arrested due to illegal activities during Wide Receiver, these indictments/arrests took years to occur.

A House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has recommended that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder be held in contempt.

Operation Fast and Furious reportedly developed out of a desire expressed in 2009 by the Obama administration to once more go after the Mexican drug cartels. ATF officials decided they'd had such great success with Operation Wide Receiver (insert confused expression here) that another gunwalking operation was what was called for, and so Operation Fast and Furious was born.

Over 2000 guns were ultimately sold to known straw purchasers in Operation Fast and Furious. Agents in the field watched guns being bought illegally and stashed on a daily basis, but were prevented by their supervisors from making any arrests. No tracking devices were installed in any of the guns, and there was no attempt to stop any of them from getting into Mexico. With all of these guns, it seemed to be only a matter of time before they were used in some sort of crime that garnered media attention, and in this case it was the December 14, 2010 murder of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry by illegal aliens using two AKs that were traced back to the Fast and Furious program.

Several ATF agents, who had expressed concern internally over gunwalking operations, immediately reported this incident to ATF headquarters, ATF General counsel, the ATF ethics section, and the Office of the Inspector General in the Justice Department. They got no response, and so then contacted Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA). Operation Fast and Furious soon became public knowledge, and only then was the operation stopped.

In January 2011 there was a press conference where U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke, who originally signed off on the legality of Fast and Furious before it was implemented, reported a 53-count indictment against 20 suspects as part of Fast and Furious. At that news conference, Bill Newell, ATF Special Agent in Charge of the Phoenix Division, who was involved in implementing Fast and Furious, denied that guns had been deliberately allowed to get into Mexico. In kindergarten I learned that this is what is called a "lie".

Mexican drug cartels warring over smuggling routes into the U.S. has led to a deadly escalation of violence.

Current numbers show that 2,020 guns were purchased by straw purchasers during Operation Fast and Furious, and only 665 of those guns have been recovered either in the U.S. or Mexico. The rest are unaccounted for, and a majority of them are believed to have gone to the Sinaloa drug cartel. As of October 2011, guns found at 170 crime scenes in Mexico have been linked to Fast and Furious. U.S. Representative Darrell Issa has estimated that more than 200 Mexicans have been killed by guns linked to the operation.

ATF supervisor Bill Newell, and two other supervisors involved in Fast and Furious (David Voth and William McMahon) have been transferred to new management positions at the ATF headquarters. These transfers were initially reported as promotions, but this has since been denied. ATF Agent Vince Cefalu, who helped publicize Fast and Furious, was fired. Senator Grassley has accused the ATF of targeting the whistleblowers in its ranks. Say it isn't so, the ATF has such a virtuous and honorable history!

Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich wrote a letter to Senator Grassley in which he said claims "… that (the) ATF sanctioned or otherwise knowingly allowed the sale of assault weapons to a straw purchaser who then transported them to Mexico (are) false." The U.S. Justice Department retracted that letter in December 2011, with Attorney General Eric Holder stating that Weich did not know that the information he provided was inaccurate. Weich resigned last week.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has repeatedly denied that he knew anything about Fast and Furious until after Brian Terry's death. So has President Obama. There are 1300 pages of documents that the congressional committee has requested, but the administration has refused to turn over, The President has, for the first time in his term, exercised Executive Privilege, and many people suspect there might be information in there contradicting Holder's statements. Republicans have stated that, by denying access to these documents, the President has all but admitted being involved in Fast and Furious discussions.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney stated that the Justice Department has "provided every document" that pertains to Fast and Furious. Senator Grassley replied, "Hogwash. Through my investigation, I know there are reams of documents related to the operation itself that the Justice Department has refused to turn over to Congress."

In a December 2, 2011 letter, the Justice Department acknowledged Operation Fast and Furious was "fundamentally flawed". Gee, ya think? Carlos Canino was an ATF agent in Mexico who didn't know anything about Operation Fast and Furious, but became concerned when hundreds of guns began flooding into the country. When testifying before Congress, he stated that never in his wildest dreams would he have thought that law enforcement authorities would allow guns to be provided to Mexican criminals. He stated that "walking guns" was not a recognized investigative technique. Even the Mexican Senate has condemned the actions of the ATF.

So why do it?

People interested in banning guns have always tried an incremental approach, and going after ugly or "evil-looking" guns, like so-called assault weapons, has been one technique. They have also tried going after the non-existent "gun show loophole", and now they are trying to get the EPA to ban ammunition in its entirety.

It's been postulated by many people that the main impetus behind the implementation of Operation Fast and Furious was to generate huge negative press for guns and the American gun owner, so the administration could more easily push anti-gun legislation through Congress. Specifically, blame Mexican drug cartel violence on U.S. gun stores and our "lax" gun laws. Is that true? I doubt we'll ever know. But look at the facts:

  • Thousands of guns were knowingly purchased by straw buyers who then took them into Mexico.
  • There no tracking devices on the guns
  • Mexican authorities were not notified
  • The ATF never attempted to stop the transportation of these guns out of the country
  • No indictments or arrests were announced until well after the program was shut down, after Brian Terry was murdered.

Insert your own conclusion about their motivations here, but that's the weirdest, most ineffective sting operation I've ever heard of. Rush Limbaugh has stated that "Fast and Furious was an effort to build a case against the Second Amendment and American gun dealers." I don't know if he's right, but that explanation makes sense, given the facts we know.

What I do know is that there are two political parties in Washington D.C. One of those parties has, almost without exception, done whatever it could to limit or eliminate the ability of private citizens to purchase or own firearms. Eric Holder, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and most of the other high-ranking Democrats have made statements indicating that they are against the idea of private gun ownership in this country, either in whole or in part. Obama, prior to being elected President, stated in person to Professor John Lott, "I don't think people should be allowed to own guns." This being America, everyone is entitled to their opinion, even if it is directly contrary to the U.S. Constitution....

Government is a necessary evil. I mean both those words — it is both necessary, and evil. "Gunwalking" is complete idiocy. The fact that the ATF came up with it during Bush's time in office is irrelevant, as far as I'm concerned. When has the government ever done anything well? That goes triple for the ATF. At least the ATF under Bush ended the program when they saw it wasn't working, without public outcry being a part of their decision-making process.

The Second Amendment doesn't have anything to do with hunting, or even defending yourself against criminals. It specifically enumerates your right to keep and bear arms so you have what you need to resist a tyrannical government. The writers of the Bill of Rights never said whether or not that tyrannical government would be a foreign one. Pay attention, and vote.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Handgun Basics

Handgun Basics

SIG Academy's Hana Bilodeau joins Rich and Jim to discuss the essential skills all handgunners should master.

Teaching New Shooters

Teaching New Shooters

Julie Golob of Team Smith & Wesson guest stars, joining Jim and Scott for a discussion of how best to introduce new shooters to the sport.

All About Handgun Ammo

All About Handgun Ammo

Rich and Jim get into the nitty gritty of the FBI ammo protocol, firing into various barriers to illustrate what can happen to a bullet.

Taurus G3c

Taurus G3c

Taurus introduces the compact version of their wildly successful 9mm pistol; the G3.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Do you remember the first time you fired a gun? If you're like most, you were somewhat Training

Pro Tips For Controlling Recoil

Richard Nance - April 11, 2017

Do you remember the first time you fired a gun? If you're like most, you were somewhat

Kahr Arms officially broke ground on their new headquarters in Blooming Grove Township, in Pike Industry

Kahr Arms Breaks Ground on New Pennsylvania HQ

Handguns Online Staff - June 04, 2014

Kahr Arms officially broke ground on their new headquarters in Blooming Grove Township, in Pike

The number of accessories and aftermarket upgrades for the SIG P320 is only going to increase. Accessories

SIG P320 Accessories and Upgrades

James Tarr - December 14, 2017

The number of accessories and aftermarket upgrades for the SIG P320 is only going to increase.

Guns are fun, and cheap guns are even more fun. Spend less on the firearm and more on ammo with these 10 low-priced pistols. Compact

10 Cheap Guns Under $250

Evan Brune - September 24, 2015

Guns are fun, and cheap guns are even more fun. Spend less on the firearm and more on ammo...

See More Trending Articles

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services


GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get Digital Access.

All Handguns subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now