All of this was accompanied by shrill cries for new gun control from high levels of the Obama administration. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on multiple occasions told officials in Mexico that our gun stores were supplying the bloodlust of the criminal drug bosses south of the border. In essence, she was saying that our freedom was the major contributor to their anarchy.
Mexican President Felipe Calderón also joined the fray, addressing the U.S. Congress and demanding that the answer to his total loss to the cartels of domestic control in his own nation could be cured by a U.S. ban on semi-automatic rifles—a new version of the Clinton gun ban.
Consequently, there are now administrative proposals in the works to register semi-automatic rifles under the guise of multiple sales reporting, something only an act of Congress could accomplish. Attorney General Eric Holder was acquiescing in that international demand for a new version of the Clinton gun ban, telling his adoring press that prohibiting Americans from owning certain guns “will have a positive impact in Mexico at a minimum.”
Further, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano—while absolutely refusing to do anything to secure the nation’s porous borders, which have been a gateway to Mexican criminals bringing their drugs and violence to American communities—threw her weight onto the blame-our-freedom crowd.
Given all the media and administration propaganda, Project Gunrunner was happily in place, funded and re-funded, humming along, doing basically nothing. It was a self-perpetuating machine with hundreds of agents and inspectors, researchers and office workers at its disposal. Agents transferred to new satellite offices from their real law enforcement jobs complained about the boredom. This was busywork doing little more than sucking up tax dollars.
BATFE even got an additional $10 million in 2009 emergency economic stimulus funds that were supposed to be used for creating jobs in the civilian marketplace. The only jobs they apparently created were for criminals running BATFE-sanctioned guns to Mexico.
In the grand scheme of things, the original projected target of all of this was not smugglers and criminals, but American gun stores, according to Robert Sanders, former head of enforcement for BATF in the late 1980s and now a highly successful attorney defending victims of agency abuse.
“When they started this thing, the premise was that the bad guys were the dealers,” Sanders told America’s 1st Freedom in an exclusive interview. “The whole original object of this fiasco was to prove dealers were supplying the cartels. And they had nothing to show for it since it wasn’t true.”
In fact, the biggest BATFE prosecution based on the dealer-as-evil-doer theory was a hugely publicized case to bring down a Phoenix FFL holder, George Iknadosian, owner of X-Caliber Guns. Iknadosian was the subject of a BATFE sting operation using criminals as undercover operatives and culminating in his May 2008 arrest.
It was all a setup. A phony. The federal case was so weak that federal prosecution was declined. In a bizarre turn, the feds then conned a local prosecutor to use federal evidence and federal witnesses in a state court, where different law prevailed.
One of the historical hallmarks of BATFE operations is that the agency subjects its targets to a pre-trial media inquisition. And the media is usually all too willing to be used. Iknadosian’s prosecution is a case in point. The media frenzy was remarkable, all the way up to his March 2009 trial in Arizona state court.
“Gun Runners Send Thousands Of Weapons From The U.S. To Mexico, Fueling That Country’s Drug Wars” was CBS’s heading in its coverage of the opening trial day.
The story led with this: “In Phoenix Monday, a gun dealer went on trial for supplying assault rifles to Mexican drug gangs who are locked in a bloody war with authorities. …
“‘Firearms trafficking to Mexico is a huge problem,’ says Phoenix ATF agent William Newell. ‘Drugs go north, guns come south.’”
The CBS story continued, “George Iknadosian is accused of being a top gun-supplier. When government agents raided his Phoenix gun shop last May, they found hundreds of weapons allegedly destined for Mexico.”
The story also included the by-now obligatory Obama administration boilerplate about our freedom being responsible for Mexican carnage.
“Mexican law makes it nearly impossible to buy guns there legally. But less restrictive laws in the U.S. keep the firearms flowing over the border.” Is something wrong with this logic? “Impossible to buy guns legally” is obviously a deterrent to the cartels, so they bypass those laws to violate ours?
After receiving massive media coverage claiming the dealer was a major gun supplier to the cartels, the Arizona trial judge threw out all 21 charges, saying the evidence and testimony was “not material.”
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Robert Gottsfield on March 18, 2010, actually threw the case out before the prosecution had finished, saying “The state’s case is based upon testimony of individuals who [alleged] … that they were the actual purchaser of the firearms when they were not … There is no proof whatsoever that any prohibited possessor ended up with the firearm.”
So in the end, in this highest profile of cases, there was no evidence that any guns went to Mexico or supplied the cartels.
The Washington Post’s coverage of the verdict of acquittal devoted one paragraph to the actual case, saying it was ironic that the trial had begun “just as President Obama called for new attention to the flow of weapons from the United States to the drug cartels inside Mexico.” The rest of the story was brazenly repeating the big lie that gun dealers were evildoers.
Buried in the early coverage of this prosecutorial travesty was a comment by BATFE Special Agent Carlos Baixauli that was extraordinarily prescient with respect to the current BATFE scandal wracking the U.S. Justice Department:
“The bottom line is illegal gun trafficking is not only destroying Mexico, but some of these guns may get back to the United States. It puts our law enforcement officers in danger, and in Mexico, it decimates law enforcement.” (Emphasis added.)
But remember, in the Iknadosian case—despite the government innuendo and the media’s widespread slander—there wasn’t a single sting gun that ended up in Mexico. Not a single sting firearm ended up in the hands of the cartels. Not a single gun in the sting was used in a crime other than the straw sales crimes committed by the BATFE’s undercover operatives.
It took a new operation by the BATFE—Operation Fast and Furious—to fulfill Agent Baixauli’s prediction.
This time, real guns were provided to the real bad guys in Mexico courtesy of the leadership of the BATFE, with the repeated approval of the Justice Department.
Fast and Furious was a crash response to back-to-back 2009-10 internal Office of Inspector General (OIG) reports that excoriated BATFE for the total flop of Project Gunrunner.
In a word, the OIG reports said that the $80 million Project Gunrunner was worthless. “ATF has not focused its enforcement on complex conspiracy investigations with multiple defendants,” and the agency’s meager efforts “involved straw purchasers and corrupt dealers, not those who organize and command the trafficking operations.”
America's 1st Freedom
NRA's pure news magazine especially for our membership. Its mission is to deliver professional, compelling, accurate, timely and hard-hitting journalism that tells the truth about the threats to our Second Amendment rights.