James Verini tries to rehabilitate the bizarre project, claiming that it was the only option the ATF had, because the gun lobby has hamstrung efforts to stop firearms trafficking. David Hardy has a solid response, and I wanted to draw attention to these sentences from the FP article:
The aim of Fast and Furious was to investigate, and not, as the ATF had grown accustomed to, interdict. Instead of arresting the so-called “straw purchasers” who buy the guns and pass them on (again, legally, provided they pass a background check), Fast and Furious called for agents to surveil them and try to follow the flow of guns, to move beyond the pawns to the larger players.
As I pointed out in National Review in July, however, the program had approximately zero chance of helping agents “follow the flow of guns, to move beyond the pawns to the larger players.” Why? Because in Fast and Furious, the agents let the guns out of their surveillance, not to be heard from again until the weapons turned up at crime scenes and were submitted for tracing.
There would have been no problem with an operation in which ATF agents followed a few guns, waiting until they reached their final destinations to arrest everyone in the supply chain. There is a problem with allowing thousands of guns to be sold to Mexican drug cartels with no supervision whatsoever.
On a related note, interested readers should also see Hardy’s roundup of reactions to the Kenneth Melson reassignment.
UPDATE: Thanks to commenter GWB for flagging anther error in the quote above: It is most definitely not “legal” to be a straw purchaser. You can legally buy a gun and re-sell it, and you can legally buy a gun and give it as a gift, but you cannot legally buy a gun on behalf of someone who is forbidden to have it. Motive can be difficult to prove, as I explained here, but you’re not a “straw purchaser” unless you buy a gun for someone who can’t buy one himself, and it’s illegal.