Wednesday, June 27, 2012

GUNS: THE STATE RELIGION IN ARIZONA (AND THE NATIONAL RELIGION IN AMERICA)

The story on Fast and Furious by Fortune's Katherine Eban ought to win a Pulitzer -- hell, it ought to win a Nobel Peace Prize. It utterly upends your sense of the events that led to the death of Brian Terry, no matter which side of the debate you were on. You need to clear time to read it. Every reporter working on the story needs to clear time to read it. So does every elitist in the Beltway. So does Jon Stewart, who thinks the problem is "gun walking." (For the most part, it isn't -- it's that things that need to be illegal aren't illegal, or aren't really.) In a sane world, this story would change the course of this "scandal" and direct the nation's righteous anger at the very people who've been the most self-righteous up to now. (Needless to say, that won't happen, but we can dream, can't we?)

You should read the article, but for now I'll just excerpt a couple of paragraphs, prefaced by this observation: You know how a lot of Americans feel smug whenever a group of Muslims do something violent in response to the desecration of a Koran? You know how those Americans smugly say that we don't hold any inanimate object so sacred that we'd defend it at the cost of actual human beings' lives?

Well, that's not true. We have sacred objects in this society that we believe are worth more than the lives of innocent human beings.

Those sacred objects are called guns:
... 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....

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....

The agents faced numerous obstacles in what they dubbed the Fast and Furious case.... Their greatest difficulty by far, however, was convincing prosecutors that they had sufficient grounds to seize guns and arrest straw purchasers. By June 2010 the agents had sent the U.S. Attorney's office a list of 31 suspects they wanted to arrest, with 46 pages outlining their illegal acts. But for the next seven months prosecutors did not indict a single suspect.

...five law-enforcement agents directly involved in Fast and Furious ... insist they never purposefully allowed guns to be illegally trafficked. Just the opposite: They say they seized weapons whenever they could but were hamstrung by prosecutors and weak laws, which stymied them at every turn....

It was nearly impossible in Arizona to bring a case against a straw purchaser. The federal prosecutors there did not consider the purchase of a huge volume of guns, or their handoff to a third party, sufficient evidence to seize them. A buyer who certified that the guns were for himself, then handed them off minutes later, hadn't necessarily lied and was free to change his mind. Even if a suspect bought 10 guns that were recovered days later at a Mexican crime scene, this didn't mean the initial purchase had been illegal....

After examining one suspect's garbage, agents learned he was on food stamps yet had plunked down more than $300,000 for 476 firearms in six months. Voth asked if the ATF could arrest him for fraudulently accepting public assistance when he was spending such huge sums. Prosecutor Hurley said no. In another instance, a young jobless suspect paid more than $10,000 for a 50-caliber tripod-mounted sniper rifle. According to Voth, Hurley told the agents they lacked proof that he hadn't bought the gun for himself....
Those excerpts don't describe policy -- they describe worship.

2 comments:

Victor said...

Not only are guns worshipped in America, they are the new "Third Rail" in politics - replacing SS, and, to a lesser degree, Medicare.

And this act of actual journalism will be ignored by "The Chattering Class."

It doesn't fit any of their memes, so they'll have to think - and those muscled died a long, long, time ago.

Neo said...

Essentially, Fortune said the "whistleblower" was lying, but it's like Fortune is stuck in a time warp ...

"... These key documents would help the Committee understand how and why the Justice Department moved from denying whistleblower allegations to understanding they were true ..."

Fortune sounds exactly like the DOJ position prior to withdrawing their Feb '11 letter to Issa last November.