Thursday, June 28, 2012

Slow Down and Chill Out

I thank God that I live in a high regulation, low handgun state. Also that most of our politicians are passably sane and we don't border a country with access to large quantities of illegal drugs (only cheaper pharmaceuticals than are available to US patients). My sympathies go out to anyone with the misfortune of living in Arizona.

Those feelings are amplified after reading Fortune's explanation of the Fast and Furious "scandal." Reading this I see where the rightwing among us have no one to blame but the NRA and the cowardly politicians of both parties who kowtow to them.

 No federal statute outlaws firearms trafficking, so agents must build cases using a patchwork of often toothless laws. For six years, due to Beltway politics, the bureau has gone without permanent leadership, neutered in its fight for funding and authority. The National Rifle Association has so successfully opposed a comprehensive electronic database of gun sales that the ATF's congressional appropriation explicitly prohibits establishing one.

Voth's mandate was to stop gun traffickers in Arizona, the state ranked by the gun-control advocacy group Legal Community Against Violence as having the nation's "weakest gun violence prevention laws." Just 200 miles from Mexico, which prohibits gun sales, the Phoenix area is home to 853 federally licensed firearms dealers. Billboards advertise volume discounts for multiple purchases.

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. "In Arizona," says Voth, "someone buying three guns is like someone buying a sandwich."

Somehow the right would like to see next to no regulation of gun sales in this country, but have none of them end up in hands of those who should nto possess them. They cry crocodile tears over Brian Terry who was killed by a weapon purchased in Arizona, but damn the ATF when they try to do their job.

The ATF is a bureau of judgment calls. Drug enforcement agents can confiscate cocaine and arrest anyone in possession of it. But ATF agents must distinguish constitutionally protected legal guns from illegal ones, with the NRA and other Second Amendment activists watching for missteps.

Critics have depicted the ATF as "jackbooted government thugs" trampling on the rights of law-abiding gun owners. From the deadly standoff with the Branch Davidian cult in Waco, Texas, in 1993 to allegations that ATF agents illegally seized weapons from suspected straw purchasers at a Richmond gun show in 2005, these scandals have helped cement the bureau's reputation in some quarters for law-enforcement overreach.

There were a few loose cannons in the detachment who on one instance conducted an operation where guns were "walked." This was not at the behest of anyone in Justice or their superiors.

Dodson then proceeded to walk guns intentionally, with Casa and Alt's help. On April 13, 2010, one month after Voth wrote his schism e-mail, Dodson opened a case into a suspected gun trafficker named Isaiah Fernandez. He had gotten Casa to approve the case when Voth was on leave. Dodson had directed a cooperating straw purchaser to give three guns to Fernandez and had taped their conversations without a prosecutor's approval.

This is the case that Congressional Republicans have based their outrage upon.

On Feb. 4, 2011, the Justice Department sent a letter to Sen. Grassley saying that the allegations of gun walking in Fast and Furious were false and that ATF always tried to interdict weapons. A month later, Grassley countered with what appeared to be slam-dunk proof that ATF had indeed walked guns. "[P]lease explain how the denials in the Justice Department's Feb. 4, 2011 letter to me can be squared with the evidence," Grassley wrote, attaching damning case reports that he contended "proved that ATF allowed guns to 'walk.'" The case and agent names were redacted, but the reports were not from Fast and Furious. They came entirely from Dodson's Fernandez case.

Can't help but feel Mexico would be justified in legalizing any and all drugs. If the US is going allow the purchase of any and all weaponry without restriction, then why not. Can't make things much worse there.

Issa's claim that the ATF is using the Fast and Furious scandal to limit gun rights seems, to put it charitably, far-fetched. Meanwhile, Issa and other lawmakers say they want ATF to stanch the deadly tide of guns, widely implicated in the killing of 47,000 Mexicans in the drug-war violence of the past five years. But the public bludgeoning of the ATF has had the opposite effect. From 2010, when Congress began investigating, to 2011, gun seizures by Group VII and the ATF's three other groups in Phoenix dropped by more than 90%.

If you have a strong stomach you can go over to Townhall and get a dissenting opinion. Also available there is the latest update on the president's birth certificate. Who to believe? Fortune or the internet version of Weekly World News.

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