Highlights of Fortune’s Fast and Furious Detailed Report

Fortune Magazine published its very in-depth report on the Fast and Furious scandal and the details put a very different complexion on the program and how it has been played out in the media.  The article is long and deserves the time of anyone interested in the debate but there are some noteworthy things that certainly should be brought to the attention of all.

The first factor that should be addressed about this debate is the political party attacking the Obama administration at the moment over this program is the same party that would be attacking the administration if they had taken a different strategy on guns and began calling for stricter laws or taking guns away from any law-abiding citizen.  This is, in reality, one of the only other ways to attack this problem and if that path had been chosen, the NRA would have posited a war had begun on guns and everyone was going to lose their weapons no matter who they were.  The author sums this point up nicely:

But the ultimate irony is this: Republicans who support the National Rifle Association and its attempts to weaken gun laws are lambasting ATF agents for not seizing enough weapons—ones that, in this case, prosecutors deemed to be legal.

So a choice was made considering the environment the ATF had to deal with, part of which is, in Arizona:

Customers can legally buy as many weapons as they want in Arizona as long as they’re 18 or older and pass a criminal background check. There are no waiting periods and no need for permits, and buyers are allowed to resell the guns.

So first off, anyone can buy as many weapons as they have the funds for and then legally resell them with no repercussions.  Clearly, if you are law enforcement trying to stop guns from getting into the hands of the drug cartels of Mexico, this is a colossal problem.  And asking the federal government, with lawmakers so loyal to the NRA and ardent fighters for no restrictions on weapons purchases, to change the law is out of the question.

Another important point is the misconception of how big this program was and how the people at the top of the government should have known better.  We love to believe every one of these types of decisions could be tracked straight back to a certain politician’s signature or comments but clearly that is not the situation here.  The reality of the operation in Arizona:

They were seven agents pursuing more than a dozen cases, of which Fast and Furious was just one.

The key problem pointed out in this article was not the ATF or necessarily their tactics but the wall these agents hit when they tried to go up the food chain of law enforcement to prosecute.  They had plenty of evidence but were blocked because of the reaction attorney’s had toward the lax gun laws in Arizona.

“[P]urchasing multiple long guns in Arizona is lawful,” Patrick Cunningham, the U.S. Attorney’s then–criminal chief in Arizona would later write. “Transferring them to another is lawful and even sale or barter of the guns to another is lawful unless the United States can prove by clear and convincing evidence that the firearm is intended to be used to commit a crime.”

Good luck with that.  I’m pretty sure simply stating “I didn’t know what the guy I sold the guns to was going to do with them” will get anyone off from any charges.  Any gun store owner can make the same claim.  I typically stay away from using single examples to draw a picture of a problem or solution but one given in this article is worth noting to show how tough it was for the ATF to go about prosecuting this gun trade:

After examining one suspect’s garbage, agents learned he was on food stamps yet had plunked down more than $300,000 for 476 firearms in six months. Voth asked if the ATF could arrest him for fraudulently accepting public assistance when he was spending such huge sums. Prosecutor Hurley said no.

The picture that the media has painted surrounding the Fast and Furious scandal is certainly not the reality of the situation.  There are some aspects of this debate we will just have to accept.  Was the result of this program awful?  Certainly.  Was it the fault of the ATF for not prosecuting the people they were tracking?  Doesn’t appear to be true.  Is this program and the problems associated with it more an effect of little to no gun laws and prosecutors unwilling to bring those cases because of the repercussions?  Absolutely.

More information regarding this situation will slowly make its way out with time but one thing is for sure now: this scandal has been much more political than what it seems and has been driven against a Democratic administration by an alleged “liberal” media.  I fail to see why such a friendly media would do that to a supposed friend and, of course, this politically driven scandal over Fast and Furious ignores the bigger story of this whole situation.

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