Reality Check: Did the feds push "Fast and Furious" to enact new gun laws?

Published: Dec. 30, 2011 at 3:45 AM EST|Updated: Dec. 30, 2011 at 11:24 AM EST
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(FOX19) - Have you heard that 90 percent of the guns being used by drug cartels in Mexico are coming from the United States?

It was that myth that prompted the Justice Department and ATF first under President Bush and to continue under President Obama to enact a program to track U.S. guns being sold into Mexico.

But were the operations, Gunrunner and Fast and Furious, really based upon facts?

The answer is no.

While the ATF has said that 90 percent of all the guns begin found at crime scenes in Mexico have come from the United States, those numbers are not accurate.

According to a 2008 report from the Government Accountability Office, 90 percent of all the guns in Mexico that are confiscated by Mexican authorities and then sent back to the United States are confirmed to have come from the U.S.

But how many guns are actually sent back?

According to that GAO report, fewer than 11 percent.

The rest don't come back here for verification because Mexican authorities are able to identify those weapons as from China, Venezuela, and the largest number, guns that belonged to the Mexican military.

So, when Fast and Furious and Gunrunner began, they were operations based upon a flawed idea.

But as the operations went forward, agents with the ATF, under the direction of the Justice Department, began working with gun store owners in Arizona.  These agents ordered owners to sell multiple weapons to repeat buyers.

Those straw buyers were then taking the weapons south of the border and selling them to drug cartels.

The feds were supposed to be tracking those weapons as they went south but started to loose track of them.  Even after losing track, the feds kept the program going.

It wasn't until Border Patrol agent Bryan Terry was killed with one of those guns that the curtain came down and investigations into what the feds were doing took place.

So did the feds have another motive as part of the reason for pushing Fast and Furious, even after they started to loose control of the program?

Documents obtained by CBS News show that the ATF discussed using their covert operation Fast and Furious to argue for controversial new rules about gun sales.

Emails show they discussed using the sales, including sales encouraged by ATF, to justify a new gun regulation called "Demand Letter 3."

That would require some U.S. gun shops to report the sale of multiple rifles or "long guns." Demand Letter 3 was so named because it would be the third ATF program demanding gun dealers report tracing information.

On April 25, 2011, ATF announced plans to implement Demand Letter 3. The National Shooting Sports Foundation is suing the ATF to stop the new rules. It calls the regulation an illegal attempt to enforce a law congress never passed.

ATF counters that it has reasonably targeted guns used most often to "commit violent crimes in Mexico, especially by drug gangs."

Here's what you need to know.

These repeated gun sales that the ATF is so worried about preventing, were only happening with fast and furious because the feds were forcing gun dealers to sell those rifles.

Is it any wonder the American people can't trust Washington?

The bottom-line here is the feds created a problem that resulted in hundreds if not thousands of people in Mexico dying violent deaths, got caught, but are still trying to move forward with a law to protect people in Mexico from the problem they created in the first place.

I'll let you know when the internal investigation on Fast and Furious is over with.

And that is Reality Check.

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