The Obama administration is punishing top officials for the failed ATF operation that placed American guns in the hands of Mexican drug cartels. The acting head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has been recalled to Washington.

He will be replaced in the interim by the U.S. attorney for Minnesota. Obama’s permanent nominee for the job continues to languish in the nomination process while Congress bickers over the Second Amendment.

Two other ATF officials were moved to the Justice Department.

The U.S. attorney for Arizona, where Operation Fast and Furious was conceived, has resigned. The prosecutor in charge of the case has been reassigned, according to Reuters.

Mexican law enforcement officials have long complained about the flow of American weapons across the border. Mexico’s drug cartels have been arming themselves with those weapons.

Operation Fast and Furious was supposed to build a case against criminal organizations and their suppliers, but in the end ATF ended up facilitating the sale of guns and let smugglers bring them into Mexico.

It is difficult to know how many people have died from these weapons. One of them may have been U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. Terry was killed during a shootout on the U.S.-Mexico border. Two guns from that incident were traced back to Operation Fast and Furious.

As punishments go, a few “lateral transfers” as The New York Times describes them, a reassignment and a resignation aren’t very severe — not when you consider the origination of the punishment: thousands of guns knowingly sent to Mexico, where they are used to kill people. — PZS


Kenneth Melson, who has been acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, was reassigned after admitting mistakes in the sting operation meant to try to crack down on weapons reaching violent drug gangs from U.S. gun stores.

In further fallout from the operation, the U.S. attorney for Arizona, Dennis Burke, has resigned effective immediately and the lead prosecutor on the case, Emory Hurley, has been reassigned too, according to an Obama administration official.

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