Mexico: “Fast and Furious” fells US gun control chief

The US Justice Department announced on Aug. 30 that Kenneth Melson, the acting head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), had been reassigned to another position in the department and that Dennis Burke, the US attorney for Arizona, was resigning from his post. The department didn’t explain the reason for the changes, but they were clearly fallout from Operation Fast and Furious, a bungled ATF program that allowed some 2,000 weapons to go from the US to Mexico, where they were probably used in drug cartel violence.

The ATF is the agency in charge of preventing the spread of illegal weapons in and from the US; gun smuggling from states on the Mexico-US border is considered the source of the majority of contraband firearms in Mexico. Some 40,000 Mexicans have died in drug-related killings since the beginning of 2007.

So far at least eight US officials have been removed or reassigned because of their association with Fast and Furious, but the Congress members who have led the probe into the operation–Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-IA)—indicated that they weren’t satisfied. The two Republicans plan to continue their investigation into what has become a major embarrassment for Attorney General Eric Holder and the administration of US president Barack Obama, a Democrat. (La Jornada, Mexico, Aug. 31)

Despite their apparent concern now about controlling the flow of illegal firearms, Rep. Issa and Sen. Grassley have opposed gun control in the past. Grassley has an “A” rating from the National Rife Association (NRA), which lobbies against gun control laws and has pushed to limit the ATF’s powers. Issa too has the group’s “A” rating. (On the Issues website, accessed Sept. 4)

A report released by a gun control advocacy group a few days after the ATF shake-up pointed to what may be an important source for the US weapons that end up with Mexican drug traffickers. Using ATF data, the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence found that 16,485 guns have disappeared from the inventories of some 4,500 US gun manufacturers during the past two years. There are no records of their having been sold. “Firearms that disappear from gun manufacturers’ plants without records of sale are frequently trafficked by gun traffickers and prized by criminals,” the report says. “Guns taken from gun manufacturing plants may also be removed before they have been stamped with serial numbers, making them virtually untraceable.”

In 2004 Congress passed an amendment sponsored by Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-KS, 1995-2011) that keeps the ATF from requiring gun manufacturers to track their inventory. (The Hill, Washington, DC, Sept. 3) Issa and Grassley are strong defenders of the amendment. (NRA Institute for Legislative Action website, accessed Sept. 5)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Sept. 4.

See our last post on Mexico’s narco wars.

  1. Brady Report
    You might want to rethink using the Brady report as a source for your articles. The “report” is bogus from start to finish. There are only 111 gun manufacturers in the US, not 4,500. The 16,485 “lost” guns is for two years, cutting the yearly rate to 8,243. The ratio between lost guns and manufactured guns (4.5 million per year) comes to 0.0018. This small amount is probably damaged in production products that are pulled prior to distribution. The ATF has not verified the Brady “report” and in fact hasn’t seen it. And finally, the Brady “report” fails to name the manufacturers they are claiming “lost” the firearms leading one to believe they are making the whole thing up.
    You sight sources for your statements but using Brady and company detracts from veracity of your message.

    1. And what are YOUR sources?
      Whereas you cite no sources for your claims at all. (Nor, incidentally, do you spell “cite” correctly.) The text clearly says that “16,485 guns have disappeared…during the past two years.” (Emphasis added.) We are curious where the 4,500 figure comes from if it doesn’t have some basis in reality.

  2. Anyone who thinks 4,500 US gun “manufacturers”…
    Anyone who thinks 4,500 US gun “manufacturers” is anywhere near accurate just doesn’t have much familiarity with the firearms industry. Wikipedia shows 110, and given a few each year coming in and going out that’s about right.

    The 4,500 number is probably a total including all the small shops with ATF Class 7 and Class 10 licenses, manufacturer of firearms with or without destructive device licenses. The common term for them is “gunsmith.” You have to have a “manufacturers” license to modify weapons or assemble new weapons from parts, not just for making new guns from scratch.

    Those “manufacturers” are like on the Discovery show Sons of Guns, small shops that do custom work on a few guns at a time, work for local law enforcement, work for NFA license holders, etc. They aren’t running assembly lines and having boxes full of brand new guns stolen off the dock. It’s very misleading to think of there being 4,500 “manufacturers” when all but 100 or so don’t do production quantity work and send their stuff out to gun stores to sell.

    It’s far more accurate to say there are 4,400 gunsmiths and 100 firearms manufacturers in the US. A gunsmith building a single custom Mauser for someone being counted in the Brady numbers is technically true but highly misleading.

  3. Same old BS
    The Brady Campaign is full of crap, because its philosophy is pure crap, and it lies and distorts to sell its BS philosophy.

    Here’s the bottom line: We have an inalienable right to arms that pre-existed the Constitution and the nation. Since it is a substantive right, it cannot be easily compromised, and when it is, it may only be in the narrowest manner possible. So says 150+ years of our history, and so says the SCOTUS.

    Now, if you can’t get your mind around that, that’s YOUR problem, not OURS.

    What opinion anybody holds to the contrary makes no difference. Substantive rights are not granted by opinion, but by our Creator, and no preponderance of opinion can negate that. That is (wait for it….) a FIRST PRINCIPLE. In other words, it cannot be ‘amended’ away – if anyone disagrees with that, they can vote with their feet and move to a country not founded upon our First Principles, which is anywhere else but HERE.


    Good. Now, GO AWAY.

    1. Second Amendment fundamentalism…
      …is bunk, like most fundamentalism.

      First, I don’t think the framers had trafficking arms to the Mexican cartels in mind when they wrote the Second Amendment.

      Second, practically everyone is full of shit on the Second Amendment.

      What nobody wants to admit is that the Second Amendment has been contradictory (and ungrammatical) from the very beginning, and is certainly an anachronism in an America which hasn’t seen a “well-regulated militia” for well over a century. The Gun Lobby notion that any regulation is unconstitutional is patently dishonest. And so is the Gun Control Lobby notion that throughout the Constitution “the people” means the people except in the Second Amendment, where “the people” should be interpreted to mean the National Guard. Both positions are bogus, and neither has anything to do with what the framers intended. The harsh truth, in fact: the framers fudged it.

      This was controversial stuff back in 1789 too.

      As for “an inalienable right to arms that pre-existed the Constitution and the nation”—even the English Common Law tradition of the right to bear arms was in the context of a defense militia. Read this.

      Oh, and telling me to “go away” on my own website is illogical as well as impolite.

      1. Bad timing for Second Amendment fundamentalism…
        Whoops. From AP, Sept. 6:

        CARSON CITY, Nev. — Authorities say a gunman used an AK-47 assault rifle in an IHOP attack that killed three people, including two members of the National Guard.

        Carson City Sheriff Kenny Furlong says they’re analyzing the weapon to determine whether it is automatic or semi-automatic.

        Furlong also says after the gunman exited the IHOP, he got into a vehicle and drove around in circles, shooting at nearby businesses.

        Furlong says the guard members killed were both men and the other victim was a woman. Authorities had earlier said one of the guard members killed was a woman.