On his radio show last Friday, Rush Limbaugh once again promoted the baseless conspiracy theory that the failed Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Operation Fast and Furious was conceived as an elaborate plot to destroy the Second Amendment.
After playing clips from last week's annual House Judiciary Committee Department of Justice Oversight hearing, Limbaugh unleashed a tirade where he purported to explain “what's going on here.” According to Limbaugh, “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'” :
RUSH LIMBAUGH: Now let me tell you what's going on here. You know the purpose of Fast and Furious, one of the purposes was, to get those guns across the border in the hands of Mexican drug cartels, have crimes committed, and then say we gotta do something about the Second Amendment. How do American guns get to Mexico? Well we got them there because we gave them. That was never supposed to be discovered. Now the Second Amendment argument or rationale here goes to the motive for doing what Holder and the [Department of Justice] did. They wanted controversy around guns, they wanted American guns in Mexico. But the problem, they engaged in reckless tactics. And the pretext for allowing the guns to walk across the border was to be able later to trace them to crime scenes and then build a case against the Mexican drug cartels. And all experienced agents who looked at this thought that it was insane, because, a) there wouldn't be crime scenes unless we walked the guns across the border, and used in crimes, so we created the crimes by making the guns available, therefore were contributing to violent criminality. And even if you traced the guns to the crime scenes that you create you wouldn't cinch the case against these particular cartels because you wouldn't know for sure enough information to nail them. This was a disaster. And now that people are trying to get to the bottom of it, a stonewall is taking place. And this is just part of it that you heard sound bites from yesterday between Holder and Chaffetz and Darrell Issa.
Though Limbaugh used the congressional hearing as a jumping off point for his conspiracy theory, neither Issa nor Chaffetz actually alleged a conspiracy against the Second Amendment during the hearing. Despite a complete lack of evidence, the idea that Fast and Furious was a plot to undermine the Second Amendment has been promoted frequently by conservative conspiracy theorists like Limbaugh, the NRA, and Fox News.
The theory has been debunked by the ongoing Republican-led House Oversight Committee investigation into the botched ATF operation. According to a May 3 memorandum released by House Oversight Chair Issa, the purpose of Fast and Furious was to take down “cartel operatives including possible high-level financiers, suppliers, and possibly even king-pins.” In a June 2011 joint staff report, Issa and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) wrote, “The purpose [of Fast and Furious] was to wait and watch, in the hope that law enforcement could identify other members of a trafficking network and build a large, complex conspiracy case.”
Issa apparently has not been explicit enough for Limbaugh, who has promoted elaborate conspiracies about Fast and Furious throughout the last year. Last July, Limbaugh stated he was “confident” that Fast and Furious “was an attack on the Second Amendment.” He then baselessly posited that the Department of Justice intended to cause mayhem south of the border so that “the American people would clamor for gun control.”
He revisited the topic in August, calling Fast and Furious “an effort by the regime to gin up anti-gun sentiment in America” and suggesting that the Department of Justice was “making sure that there was always a cloud of doubt about was the government really involved in this? Was the regime really behind all of this?”
As time passed, Limbaugh became bolder in his proclamations. In September, he shared his belief that the highest levels of government were involved in a nefarious plot against the Second Amendment. “There's no question” that Fast and Furious “was a means for Obama to get back at the Second Amendment,” declared Limbaugh.
Neither Limbaugh, nor any other pusher of this theory, has ever offered an iota of hard evidence to prove it. The closest thing offered to a coherent thought on this theory has been the suggestion that because Holder and other Justice Department officials have supported gun violence prevention measures in the past, that Fast and Furious must comprise the means to enact such policies. Media Matters has pointed out before that this evidence is merely circumstantial and has never been substantiated.