Fast and Furious: Whatever happened to "guns don't kill people, people kill people?"

Whatever happened to "guns don't kill people, people kill people?"

by digby

I haven't followed the Fast and Furious pseudo scandal all that closely because it seemed so unlikely to me that it could be the one to metastasize into a Village feeding frenzy. Why? Well, here's a concise description of the case:

Fast and Furious, which started in 2009, was the misbegotten gun-trafficking operation in which agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives allowed weapons to "walk," or flow to Mexican drug cartels in the hopes of busting higher-ups in the organization. As many as 2,000 guns were lost in the botched sting and two of them turned up at the sight of a shootout that cost the life of a U.S. border agent. The operation was run out of the U.S. attorney's office in Phoenix.

It honestly never occurred to me that the right could turn this one into a cause celebre. After all, haven't we been told for decades that "guns don't kill people, people kill people?" Of all the hissy fits they might stage, freaking out over the origin of some guns just slays me. This has to be the only crime in history in which these right wing gun fetishists give a damn about the fact that guns got in the hands of criminals and someone was killed.

These are the same people who cheered this, after all:

Ashcroft ordered that all government lists — including voter registration, immigration and driver's license lists — be checked for links to terrorists. But there was one list Ashcroft did not want used - the gun purchasers background check.

Every person who buys a gun from a dealer must pass an instant criminal background check. It's called the National Instant Criminal Background check system or NICS. The records of those checks are kept by the FBI. After September 11th, the ATF wanted to review those records to see if any suspected terrorists had bought guns.

They wanted to know whether any of them had slipped through the system. The Department of Justice stepped in and stopped the FBI in their tracks. The Department of Justice said no, you can't do that. You can't use the records of approved gun purchasers in connection with a criminal investigation.

Attorney General John Ashcroft told the FBI to stop checking the NICS list...That mirrors the position of the National Rifle Association, which insists that the data collected when people buy guns is an invasion of privacy.

Even in the immediate wake of 9/11,
the thought of terrorists getting their hands on guns didn't bother them. These are not people who normally lose sleep over gun violence of any kind.

Now, they have floated a rationale for their extremely unusual exception to the "guns don't kill people, people kill people rule" but it's so stupid it's hard to imagine that even Darrell Issa would believe it:

RUSH LIMBAUGH: Now let me tell you what's going on here. You know the purpose of Fast and Furious, one of the purposes was, to get those guns across the border in the hands of Mexican drug cartels, have crimes committed, and then say we gotta do something about the Second Amendment. How do American guns get to Mexico? Well we got them there because we gave them. That was never supposed to be discovered.

Now the Second Amendment argument or rationale here goes to the motive for doing what Holder and the [Department of Justice] did. They wanted controversy around guns, they wanted American guns in Mexico. But the problem, they engaged in reckless tactics.

And the pretext for allowing the guns to walk across the border was to be able later to trace them to crime scenes and then build a case against the Mexican drug cartels. And all experienced agents who looked at this thought that it was insane, because, a) there wouldn't be crime scenes unless we walked the guns across the border, and used in crimes, so we created the crimes by making the guns available, therefore were contributing to violent criminality.

And even if you traced the guns to the crime scenes that you create you wouldn't cinch the case against these particular cartels because you wouldn't know for sure enough information to nail them. This was a disaster. And now that people are trying to get to the bottom of it, a stonewall is taking place. And this is just part of it that you heard sound bites from yesterday between Holder and Chaffetz and Darrell Issa.

That's right. Allowing drug cartels to get their hands on American weapons was an elaborate scheme to confiscate Americans' guns.

Meanwhile, in the congress you've got the nation's greatest braintrusts on the case:

Issa's close colleague, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), who has been equally zealous on Fast and Furious, was blunt about his goal. "The only think I want out of this is somebody's scalp that approved this," Grassley said on Fox News earlier this month. "They should just have to get out of government and be held responsible . . . because their decisions led to the death of Terry."

I'll be looking forward to Grassley's call for the heads of those who provided the guns to the next campus or workplace mass killer.