At the outset it is important to note that as this operation moved from one of overseeing the selling and subsequent international transport of weapons, to one in which law enforcement was supposed to trace the guns back to cartel members and make arrests, its name changed from Gunrunner to “Fast and Furious.” Yet they are not so much two separate operations as they are two parts of one large covert action. Thus it’s not uncommon to hear people use the labels Gunrunner and Fast and Furious interchangeably.
The beginnings of Gunrunner can at least be traced back as far as Feb. 15, 2009, when President Obama authorized $10 million for it via the stimulus package. His signature on that document renders his subsequent denials of any knowledge of Gunrunner questionable at best. And on April 2, 2009, Attorney General Eric Holder gave a speech at the Mexico/United States Arms Trafficking Conference in Cuernavaca, Mexico, in which he boasted of overseeing the implementation of Gunrunner.
What is the real reason behind Project Gunrunner / Fast and Furious?
One of the worst remaining aspects of Gunrunner and Fast and Furious is that both appear to have been carried out with the intention of increasing border crime and chaos to levels sufficient to persuade Americans to embrace more gun control. If such a presumption seems like a stretch, then consider that to date, the Justice Department’s only response to the myriad Fast and Furious allegations has been to mandate a new law requiring gun stores in Arizona, California, Texas and New Mexico to make a special report to the ATF when an individual makes multiple long-gun purchases over a five-day period, the only caveat being that the guns have to be greater than .22-caliber and capable of using a detachable clip.
Upon announcing these new gun control measures on July 11, 2011, Deputy Attorney General James Cole actually tried to justify them by pointing out that such weapons “are highly sought after by dangerous drug trafficking organizations and frequently recovered at violent crime scenes near the Southwest border.” (No mention was made of the fact that hundreds upon hundreds of these same weapons were sold to would-be criminals with ATF and Justice Department approval during Gunrunner, then smuggled across the border.
Another reason it appears the passage of more gun control was the goal all along is found in e-mails between Mark Chait, ATF’s assistant director of field operations, and William Newell, special agent in charge in Phoenix during Fast and Furious. In one such e-mail, sent during July 2010, Chait asked Newell to pay special attention to multiple long-gun sales at gun stores because the ATF was, at that time, already “looking at anecdotal cases to support a demand letter on long-gun multiple sales.” (In other words, the requirement for a special form on multiple long-gun sales to law-abiding Americans was already in the works.)