ATF Gun Ops May Have Led To 1,800 Deaths

mexican gun violenceBack in December, border patrol Brian Terry was shot and killed by a group of Mexican thieves who were believed to have been preying on undocumented immigrants. The gun which was used to kill him was later traced to an Arizona gun store. Even more appalling, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives purposefully permitted the weapon to “walk” into the hands of drug lords and gun runners. It was all part of an ATF operation entitled Fast and Furious which allowed guns to be trafficked south of the border with the hope that they would lead authorities to high-level cartel operatives.

Special Agent John Dodson — the program’s whistle blower — told Univision’s Jorge Ramos yesterday that he found Fast and Furious morally reprehensible, pointing out that it might have led to the death of over a thousand people:

My motivation is simply because this isn’t what we signed up for, this isn’t what we do as law enforcement officers, as an agency, this is not what we do as ATF. My mission for coming out here was to stop this kind of activity. To prevent as much firearms trafficking as I can and then as I learned that my agency, as I believed, is perhaps contributing to that, at the very least condoning it, allowing it to occur right underneath our noses, if not contributing to it – I disagree with professionally, morally, ethically and I felt that I had an obligation of all these things to try and do something about it. [...]

We knew that these weapons were going to end up in crimes; they were going to a known criminal organization; that was the whole theory behind the case.So you have 1,800 guns that you let go, imagine if you only had one bullet for each gun, or you get one death for each gun, that is 1,800 people.

Meanwhile, the National Rifle Association (NRA) is calling on Congress to hold hearings on the ATF’s efforts to stem the flow of weapons to Mexico. Ironically, it’s the NRA lobby that has so weakened the ATF and rendered it leaderless since 2006. The Washington Post recently reported that for “over nearly four decades, the NRA has wielded remarkable influence over Congress, persuading lawmakers to curb ATF’s budget and mission and to call agency officials to account at oversight hearings.”

Yet, according to The Hill, the NRA hopes that “the public discussion [about Fast and Furious] will help kill a request from federal regulators for more authority to track gun purchases in the southern border states.” That request would involve requiring gun dealers to Andrea Nillreport multiple sales of rifles and shotguns to ATF. According to the NRA, the reporting requirement “would flood the agency with even more reports of legal transactions, while likely driving criminal traffickers further underground.” Yet, experts argue that the proposal could save thousands of lives from drug cartel violence.

In 2010, MSNBC reported that Mexican cartels are taking advantage of lax U.S. gun laws which the NRA has lobbied hard for. At that time, around 80 percent of the 90,000 weapons confiscated by Mexican authorities were purchased in the U.S.

Andrea Nill

Wonk Room

Published by the LA Progressive on March 16, 2011
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About Andrea Christina Nill

Andrea Nill is an Immigration Researcher/Blogger for ThinkProgress.org and The Progress Report at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Andrea holds a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University in Political Science with a concentration in Latin American Studies and Law and Society. Prior to joining the center, Andrea was a Communications Associate at the Immigration Policy Center where she founded the blog, Immigration Impact. Andrea was also a Communications Specialist at the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), specializing in bilingual public relations. Andrea was born in Guatemala and grew up in upstate New York.