There’s much debate about the details, but virtually everyone agrees that Fast and Furious was a deeply flawed operation in which U.S. law-enforcement agents deliberately allowed Mexican gangs to purchase American guns and walk away with them. Everyone, that is, except Fortune magazine, which recently published the results of an intensive investigation. Fortune’s conclusion, based largely on off-the-record interviews: The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives didn’t really let guns “walk”; what happened is that prosecutors, thanks to lax gun laws, weren’t able to give the go-ahead to seize the firearms. The story contradicts much of the available evidence. According to leaked e-mails, Justice Department officials explicitly discussed the number of guns that had “walked” during Fast and Furious, and the ATF asked at least one gun-store owner to continue making sales that made him uncomfortable. The Fortune narrative also can’t explain the Obama administration’s behavior: Last year, the Justice Department retracted a previous statement that there was no gun-walking, and the administration has been doing its best to impede a congressional investigation of Fast and Furious. Most recently, the president invoked executive privilege to keep some documents away from investigators. We’re still waiting for a credible explanation of how Fast and Furious happened — but it did, indeed, happen.
In the U.S., Border Patrol agent Brian Terry has been the face of Fast and Furious — it was at the scene of Terry’s murder that two Fast and Furious guns were found, igniting the controversy. But as Deroy Murdock pointed out in a recent NRO column, we shouldn’t forget the victims south of the border, either. Mexico’s former attorney general estimates that 300 citizens have already been killed or injured by the roughly 2,000 guns that “walked.” Victims have included the brother of a Mexican state attorney general and three officers of the Mexican Federal Police. Fast and Furious guns were also tied to a plan to assassinate the police chief of Baja California. The operation’s guns will be turning up at Mexican crime scenes for years, and the American officials responsible should be held accountable.
Conservatives had mixed reactions to the Supreme Court’s decision on Arizona’s immigration law, depending on whether they considered its impact on immigration policy or on constitutional law. By affirming several portions of the Arizona statute, the Court enabled states to take effective action against illegal immigration. The provisions it nullified were comparatively unimportant. The Court went out of its way, however, to say that it reserved the right to revisit the law once it can see how it is being enforced. Worse, it invalidated parts of the law even though they were consistent with the Constitution and federal law, on the ground that they were inconsistent with the Obama administration’s stated preferences on how to enforce the immigration laws. As Justice Scalia commented in his own opinion, the Constitution would never have been ratified had the public of the 1790s conceived it would so neuter the states. The state of Arizona has been treated in the press as though it were a rogue state. All along, its offense has been showing too much respect for the rule of law. Neither the executive nor the judicial branch of the federal government is guilty of that.
The Supreme Court also decided that legislatures may not draw up criminal codes that require juvenile murderers to receive life sentences without the possibility of parole. So, for example, the legislature may not say that juvenile murderers may be tried as adults, say further that certain types of murderers convicted as adults must have life sentences, and thus require some juveniles to get those sentences. Although 28 states and the federal government have such legislative schemes, the Court ruled that they amount to “cruel and unusual punishment” and violate the Constitution. The Court will still allow the nation’s judges and juries to issue life sentences without parole to juveniles — but it says that it expects such sentences to be “uncommon.” Another word for “uncommon” is, of course, “unusual,” just in case anyone doubts where this train is headed.
California, home of the little deuce coupe and the girl who’ll have fun, fun, fun ’til her daddy takes the T-Bird away, is the birthplace of car culture. Naturally, Governor Jerry Brown and state Democrats are proposing to spend some $68 billion from the budget-busted state’s coffers to build a high-speed train connecting Los Angeles with San Francisco, apparently never having heard of the Wright brothers and their newfangled aeroplanes. The Obama administration has offered more generous help funding a high-speed train in California, on the condition that the first segment connect Bakersfield and Madera. (Really.) California is setting itself up for an old-fashioned fiscal fiasco: The legislature has committed to the first $4.6 billion in bonds, but voters in a November referendum are likely to reject the tax increase Governor Brown helped secure to pay for them, meaning that the state would be forced to make cuts in real services in order to fund a pointless train that replicates faster air travel and that will under the best-case scenario not carry a single passenger between L.A. and San Francisco for more than a decade. (We’d bet against on-time-and-under-budget in this case.) Liberals have a peculiar affection for trains that mirrors their cultural disdain for cars and the freewheeling culture associated with them: Central planners love a train because they get to tell you where to go. We hope Californians will do the same with this project.