Fast and Furious off target

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The federal government’s Operation Fast and Furious was nothing short of a deadly scandal, one that Americans should be deeply ashamed of and angry about. 

The operation started in 2009, with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives coercing firearms dealers in border states to sell weapons to smugglers. More than 2,000 weapons are believed to have crossed the border, including weapons that were tied to the murder of a U.S. Border Patrol agent and no less than 300 Mexican citizens, according to Mexican authorities.

A recently released report from the U.S. Justice Department’s Inspector General found that the operation was littered with “a pattern of serious failures,” including a failure to “adequately assess the public safety consequences of not stopping or controlling the alarming purchasing activity that persisted as the investigation progressed.”

That just might qualify as an understatement.

The report found that the idea behind the program was to delay seizing illegally purchased guns until smugglers delivered them to drug cartels. But the operation was being run by only three ATF agents who could not keep up with the overwhelming number of weapons that were crossing the border. 

Last week, National Rifle Association President David Keene asserted that the only reason for the operation was to have firearms show up at crime scenes, which they did, to establish a premise for tighter gun control laws applying to border state firearms dealers. That would truly be disturbing — creating conditions for murder to win support for a political agenda.

He’s not alone in his views; lawmakers involved with a congressional probe on Fast and Furious point to e-mails that suggest that was the case.

But whatever the purpose, it was a horrible idea with a predictably horrible outcome. And there haven’t been strong enough consequences in our view.

The Inspector General’s report recommended that 14 Justice Department and ATF employees be reviewed but so far the acting ATF director has retired and a deputy assistant attorney general has resigned. That’s it.

There should be more to ensure a systemic cleansing takes place that will prevent anything like this from ever happening again.

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