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The Truth About the ATF Scandal Please…

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The venerable New Jersey Star Ledger newspaper printed an editorial on June 30, 2012, in which it repeated as fact a purely partisan narrative known as the ATF’s “Fast and Furious” scandal.  Here below is my full response:

Letter to the Editor:
In your editorial, “Boys Behaving Badly“, you didn’t do your homework. Thanks to investigative journalism by Katherine Eban at Fortune magazine we now know the “Fast and Furious” scandal is mostly fiction. This local ATF operation didn’t involve allowing illegally purchased guns to stray beyond the point of sale.  It may be true that one disgruntled ATF agent lost six handguns during his own rogue operation, but this wasn’t sanctioned. Eric Holder apparently didn’t know about this incident when he initially wrote to Congress causing him to provide some misinformation.

As for the 2000 high powered weapons supposedly lost by the ATF, (as per Republican Congressman, Darrell Issa) virtually all of them were legally purchased according to Arizona’s federal prosecutors. This includes the gun later used to kill a U.S. border guard.

The hard truth is that Federal prosecutors broadly interpret Arizona’s gun laws, which are already the weakest in the nation. In Arizona, an unemployed 18 year old with no criminal record can walk into a gun shop, buy fourteen AK-47 assault rifles, certify they are for personal use, change his mind after walking out of the store and then legally sell them to anyone in the parking lot.  It’s as if the gun laws in Arizona were designed for gun traffickers.  Frustrated ATF agents believed the weapons in question were going to criminals but were over ruled.  It is the system that allowed these guns to walk, not the AFT.

Meanwhile, 55,000 Mexican citizens have been killed in the last five years in the battle among drug cartels and Mexican police. It is estimate that 2000 weapons a day cross our Southern border into Mexico and there’s little the AFT can do about it.
I doubt Eric Holder criminally withheld documents from Congress, but the facts about this haven’t filtered out yet. The whole scandal appears to be a political witch hunt. What has become clear, however, is that the guns needed to support Mexican drug cartels are flooding over the border every day while tons of their illegal product floods back here to destroy more American lives.

Thanks to the great reporting of Katherine Eban at Fortune magazine

Note: Many newspapers around the country are probably relying on Congressman Issa’s partisan narrative when reporting on this story.  His commentary has been around for months while the Eban report is just days old.  Even so, it is revealing how much journalists must depend on the messages politicians give them.  Enterprise journalism (or investigative journalism), is what we need to verify what politicians say.  This type of journalism is labor intensive and expensive.  Eban’s investigation took six months.  Corporate media outlets are profit driven, not truth driven enterprises.  Newspapers in particular are in financial trouble.  Readership and advertising sales are down.  I sometimes wonder if readership is down in part because newspapers no longer provide us with trusted, independently verified news?


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