Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Smugglers' Blues

For a couple of years now, the press has been treating us to stories about the frightening number of firearms seized in Mexico that have been traced back to the United States.  Gun-control advocates have pointed to these statistics as proof that American gun laws are too lax and that we must surrender more of our freedoms to help reduce Mexican street crime.

This never really made a lot of sense to me.  Smuggling one rifle at a time seems like a piecemeal method for drug cartels that annually smuggle tons of illegal drugs over the border.  Any licensed gun dealer knows the score, and if you’re selling a couple of dozen AK-47 clones in a week to the same guy, you’d have to be an idiot not to suspect a strawman sale.  And you also know just quickly that activity can get your federal firearms licensed revoked and possibly get you a nice cell at Club Fed.

Well, now the truth is emerging.  It turns out that American gun dealers did, in fact, sell at least a thousand semiautomatic rifles to known strawmen for the purpose of smuggling the guns into Mexico.  But, they were TOLD to do so by the federal agency that regulates them!

Enter Project Gun Runner.  The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) wanted to research the flow of illegal weapons into Mexico.  That’s the official story; some of us wonder if they weren’t also trying to inflate the number of serial number traces submitted to them by Mexican law enforcement for the purpose of seeking tighter gun control laws in the United States.

Apparently it never occurred to anyone in BATFE management (and I use that term guardedly) that giving a thousand rifles to cartel thugs actively turning the northern provinces of Mexico into a war zone might be a Bad Thing.  Two thirds of the guns known to have been sold under Gun Runner have been recovered at Mexican crime scenes.  The death toll is probably in the hundreds.

This is the same agency whose ham-handed attempt to serve a warrant led to the death of twenty-five children in 1993.  It wouldn’t surprise me to see a much higher bodycount of innocents from this latest debacle.  Congress is beginning to take notice and is asking pointed questions.  Sit back and watch F-Troop and the Justice Department shuck and jive as they try to minimize and obfuscate the details of the operation.  Thankfully at least one BATFE agent possessed a conscience strong enough to compel him to come forward and bring the agency’s activities to light.

If past experience is any guide, expect BATFE to leave the real criminals alone and concentrate on hassling licensed gun dealers for the next year or two.  It won’t reduce gun crime in any meaningful way, but it will keep them out of the eye of the public until their friends in Congress can smooth this over.

BATFE’s technical services division serves a purpose, but their armed federal agents are a joke.  This agency has repeatedly been humiliated by the antics of these cowboys and their utter lack of common sense.  In my opinion, BATFE should be reduced to technical and administrative functions and stripped of armed agents.  If warrants need to be served, let the adults do it.

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