More on Fast and Furious and Gun Control

by Robert VerBruggen

Senator Chuck Grassley has a new memo (starting on page four of the PDF). It contains a paragraph describing a rather odd situation: An ATF agent was asked by his supervisor (David Voth) to trace guns that hadn’t been recovered at crime scenes yet. This was not for informational purposes: The agent already had access to the Suspect Gun Database, which contained all the data about these guns that a conventional trace would uncover. The supervisor said the traces would provide information for officers who found the guns in the future: If an officer traced the gun, he’d be notified of the previous trace and realize that the gun was part of a special operation. When he asked around, this agent found that several others had been asked to do the same thing.

The alternative explanation is that these traces were done to pad the statistics — gun traces are often cited as evidence as to how (and how many) guns find their way to criminals. Most notoriously, the president and the media are obsessed with the percentage of Mexican crime guns traced to the U.S., even though Mexico doesn’t submit all of the crime guns it finds to the ATF for tracing.

I’m not sold. The supervisor’s explanation sounds plausible, for one thing. For another, the ATF statistics that the president cited pertain to guns recovered in Mexico; there’s no sign that the agent was told to trace the guns in such a way that they would be counted in these numbers. The memo doesn’t say how many traces there were, but there were something like 2,000 total Fast and Furious guns, whereas the ATF traces around 10,000 Mexican-submitted guns to the U.S. each year and handles hundreds of thousands of traces in total.

And even if these traces were an attempt to pad statistics, it’s not clear why the ATF would let the guns go to Mexico. Why not just run a bunch of fake traces and not get anyone killed?

What the conspiracy theorists are looking for is proof that Fast and Furious was designed, from the get-go, to create a rationale for gun control. This doesn’t prove that.

Hat tip to Dave Hardy.