DOJ Inspector General Report: No Evidence For Right-Wing Media's Fast And Furious Gun Control Conspiracy

Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

The right-wing media's conspiracy theory that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Operation Fast and Furious was hatched as a nefarious plot by the Obama administration to impose draconian gun control upon the United States has been debunked by an independent investigation into the failed gun trafficking sting.

According to a report issued by the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General, there is "no evidence that the agents responsible for the cases had improper motives or were trying to accomplish anything other than dismantling a dangerous firearms trafficking organization." This is consistent with a June 2011 report by Republican congressional staff, which found that "The operation's goal was to establish a nexus between straw purchasers of assault-style weapons in the United States and Mexican drug-trafficking organizations (DTOs) operating on both sides of the United States-Mexico border." From the OIG report (emphasis added):

ATF's Phoenix Field Division, together with the U.S. Attorney's Office, bore primary responsibility for the conduct of Operations Wide Receiver and Fast and Furious. While we found no evidence that the agents responsible for the cases had improper motives or were trying to accomplish anything other than dismantling a dangerous firearms trafficking organization, we concluded that the conduct and supervision of the investigations was significantly flawed. For reasons described in Chapters Three and Four, the Phoenix and Tucson offices adopted and adhered to a strategy that deferred taking overt action against subjects, even when evidence of the illegality of the purchasing activity was overwhelming, and we concluded, did so without adequate consideration of how that strategy placed the public at risk and what measures could be taken to minimize that risk. Further, as the case progressed, there was no discussion about whether the goals of the investigation should yield to what should have been an imperative to end the firearms trafficking taking place. 

The Inspector General also specifically found no link between Operation Fast and Furious and plans to regulate firearms. According to the report, there is "no evidence that ATF Phoenix initiated the investigation in order to facilitate efforts to obtain long gun legislation." The report also found that then-Acting ATF Director Kenneth Melson did not use Fast and Furious as a justification for an ATF-backed reporting requirement for the sale of multiple assault rifles that went into effect in August 2011. From the report (emphasis added):

Melson told the OIG that the impetus for the long gun reporting requirement came from him, though he could not recall the date that he asked his staff to pursue the matter. He also stated that when he discussed the long gun reporting requirement with staff at ATF Headquarters, "[n]o one ever suggested that [Operation Fast and Furious] was being done for purposes of supporting our position on the long guns," and that he did not make any decisions concerning the case in order to increase the likelihood that the long gun reporting requirement would be implemented. We found no evidence that contradicted Melson's statements to us concerning the long gun reporting requirement; and no evidence that ATF Phoenix initiated the investigation in order to facilitate efforts to obtain long gun legislation. 

This report directly contradicts baseless claims made about Fast and Furious by members of the right-wing media and National Rifle Association leadership.

In an interview released by the National Rifle Association on June 21, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre claimed, without evidence, that Fast and Furious "was about putting these guns down there in Mexico and then why they found them at crime scenes going, 'Aha, we need more gun laws in the United States.'"

On June 8, Rush Limbaugh claimed that "one of the purposes" of Fast and Furious was to point to crimes committed by Mexican drug cartels "then say 'we gotta do something about the Second Amendment.'"

Townhall news editor Katie Pavlich authored a book on Fast and Furious, released on April 16, that asked, "Was Fast and Furious designed to help build a case for new gun control measures that could not otherwise pass Congress? Did the Obama administration and its political appointees put their zeal for their own political agenda ahead of public safety? The evidence suggests the answer is yes."

The theory was also repeatedly touted on Fox News, but when Pavlich attempted to raise it during an interview, none other than Bill O'Reilly derided her for pushing a "conspiracy thing."

In what may be an allusion to numerous falsehoods and conspiracies pushed about Operation Fast and Furious by the right-wing media, Attorney General Eric Holder commented on the release of the Inspector General report by stating, "I hope today's report acts as a reminder of the dangers of adopting as fact unsubstantiated conclusions before an investigation of the circumstances is completed."

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