Out of the sound and fury of Attorney General Eric Holder’s day before the House last week one thing was clear: Republican members of Congress are latching onto the conspiracy theory that the Obama administration let guns “walk” into Mexico in order to erode Americans’ second amendment rights.
Some, like Rep. Darrell Issa, have suggested that the Obama administration decided after the scandal broke to discuss the larger issue of gun trafficking and the need for better tools (like a rule requiring dealers to report sales of multiple “long guns”) to stop it.
But there’s a separate category of individuals who buy into a more outlandish scenario: those who believe that Fast and Furious was launched by the Obama administration to implement gun control. Stephanie Mencimer of Mother Jones explains:
It goes something like this: Fast and Furious was actually a scheme by Holder to promote gun control. The NRA claims that Holder allowed American gun dealers to sell AK-47s and other powerful assault rifles so that they would be used to kill people in the Mexican drug war, thereby creating the political will for more restrictions on gun ownership in the United States.
“If the American people learn that the motivations for all of this was to make a case to deprive them of their Second Amendment rights or to make a case to further the (Justice) department’s ability to further regulate gun rights within the United States, that would make them very angry,” said Rep. Trent Franks.
“We have an administration that has said ‘don’t let a good crisis go to waste’ and you wonder if this was actually a manufactured crisis,” Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) said on Fox News back in the summer.
“This was the most anti-gun administration in our country’s history and there are a number of us that believe the whole genesis of this Fast and Furious was to further their gun control aims right here in the United States,” Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) told the NRA.
Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA) voiced a similar opinion during the hearing, leading to a rebuke from Holder.
“I say this with all due respect, take a step back and think about the implications of what you’re saying, is that the Justice Department came up with a flawed program in order to justify a regulation,” Holder told Lungren.
Subscribers of this theory point to a CBS report that shows that some ATF officials discussed using the Fast and Furious cases of one of a number of examples to support a reporting rule for the so-called “long guns” preferred by Mexican drug cartels, a rule which already exists for handguns.
“Before this rule took effect, ATF would have had no idea if an individual came in and purchased 10 AK-47s from a gun dealer,” Daniel Vice of the Brady Campaign, one of many groups very unhappy with the Obama administration’s record on gun control, told TPM. “It would have been very odd if ATF didn’t look to its arrest record and gun trafficking investigations for information to support this rule because those were traffickers they had actually uncovered buying guns. The fact that ATF looked there was just common sense.”
“The idea that ATF allowed guns to go across the border not to try to stop trafficking but to later on support their authority to send a letter to gun dealers is just ridiculous,” Vice said.
If the NRA’s theory is correct, the administration evidently forgot to loop in a few key players. As TPM reported back in October, emails between the White House, ATF and Justice Department officials from December 2010 and early January 2011 show that ATF did not even tell officials in the Office of Mangagement and Budget (OMB) that they were making a request for the emergency rule. Most of the email exchanges took place after the documents CBS said it obtained.
If this theory is true, they also apparently left out officials in DOJ’s Criminal Division, who trusted the representations of ATF officials who told them that gun walking didn’t occur after Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley inquired about the matter in February.
Vice told TPM that while Fast and Furious was obviously poorly planned and executed, their lack of enforcement power explains why they engaged in the operation.
“They have almost no way to stop traffickers who are buying guns from gun shops if the gun shops are willing to make the sales, which very frequently they are,” Vice said.