An anonymous gun dealer in Arizona recently recounted how he participated in selling multiple guns to straw purchasers amid “Operation Fast and Furious” at the behest of the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The ill-planned scheme, which started in 2009 and reportedly ended in 2013 under the Obama administration, sought to trace guns sold to Mexican cartels by straw purchasers. The operation came to a head when a “Fast and Furious” weapon was found at the scene where US Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was gunned down.
Sitting down with humor magazine Cracked, “James,” a former worker at a gun store in Phoenix, said he was contacted by the ATF after making a few sales of Barrett .50 caliber rifles to suspicious people.
“I was working in a very large gun store in Phoenix at the time, and we sold everything,” James says. “I got a phone call one day on the shop line, and a guy was looking for a Barrett .50 cal, which is not a crazy weapon in terms of how available they are.”
The dealer describes how the $10k high-caliber rifle, powerful enough to shoot through a light tank, was highly popular among straw purchasers, who would pay with bundles of cash, rarely purchased accessories and really knew nothing about the gun.
” … as I’m ringing up the transaction, he has one of those little drawstring backpacks. He pulls a paper bag out, takes out 10 grand in cash rubber-banded in thousand dollar increments. It was weird that, one, he came in with $10,000 cash. And he didn’t want any ammo for it or any optics for it. He didn’t know much about it beside the fact that he wanted it.”
The dealer said despite suspecting something was awry, the business continued to sell guns for literal bundles of cash.
” … then, we started getting more and more phone calls over the weeks. Same questions. We had four or five come in … that first guy came in five or six times, saying he was starting a collection. You don’t buy five to six of the same 10k rifle for a collection.”
At that point the ATF was contacted, but rather than put a stop to the sales, they asked select gun shop employees at the store to keep selling to the suspected straw buyers, and in addition fill out paperwork for the agency.
“The ATF said, ‘Don’t refuse ’em, just let ’em go. Do it.’ And we’re on commission at the time, so all of us involved are like … sweet! It got to the point where we would give the ATF our cellphone numbers. They only wanted a couple of us dealing with it … fill out this form, have the money counted, so we can bring drug dogs in to check the bills for drugs. There were undercover agents in the store, sometimes.”
“Once the ATF was more involved, we had a separate set of paperwork. You took their 4473 [the form you fill out to buy a gun] and transcribed all that, then it asked what type of transaction it was, how many 100s, how many 50s, how many 10s, ones. Then, basic questions: Did you feel they knew what they were buying? Did they buy ammo? Accessories?”
“James” says after that, Barrett sales began to skyrocket.
” … it started to get more and more severe. We were placing special orders with Barrett because we couldn’t keep up [with] demand. At one point, it was probably four to five of these rifles a week. Also FN57 pistols … but, the Barretts were the big one.”
He also described how cartels would often choose inconspicuous people to make the purchases, including clean-cut white and hispanic men.
“These kids weren’t sketchy looking dudes; they were all clean-cut, and some were Hispanic. But, one boy was a white boy who told me he had served. We had a bunch of light machine guns, like an M249 SAW … what caught me off guard is that he and I shot the crap about that one day. Then, he says, ‘Oh, I’ve been interested in the Barrett.’ I’m like, ‘makes sense, he’s a military kid.’ But then, he broke out the huge bag of cash.”
After selling several firearms alongside the ATF, the dealer says he began to wonder whether the agency would do its part and follow-up on their locations.
“We were being told, ‘Oh, we’re tracking their phones, we’ve got their license plates,’ but it just kept happening. Excuse the pun, but when are you gonna pull the trigger on this? It was going on all over the city — we knew we weren’t the only store — you’ve got plenty of evidence, you know where they live. What ARE you waiting on?”
After being informed the ATF nabbed several of the straw buyers in 2011, James says he received a bombshell from an agent: none of them would be charged.
“Our agent was pretty candid with us: He let us know the guys doing it had been arrested. Then, they were let go, because what they had done hadn’t been illegal — they hadn’t seen a hand off. They weren’t tracking them well enough; everyone made it over the border.”
The operation resulted in over 64,000 weapons crossing the US border into Mexico, according to testimony from former Attorney General Eric Holder. Mexican lawmakers also grew upset after guns traced to the US operation began showing up at crime scenes across the country, with one prominent politician in 2011 attributing at least 150 Mexican deaths and injuries to Fast and Furious weapons.
Last month, a researcher looking into the suspicious circumstances surrounding CBP Agent Brian Terry’s death on behalf of his family revealed the botched operation transferred weapons abroad, noting particularly how Fast and Furious weapons had been located in Morocco.
“What I would speculate is – dovetailing on what Tosh Plumlee has been on your program before and talked about – this is, I think, part of a much larger international gun running operation,” Lt. Col. Matt Smith-Meck revealed on the Alex Jones Show.
“We know from accounts from folks that are actually involved in running these weapons, in September of 2010, weapons – separate from what we would call Fast and Furious – were run down to Mexico, down to a town in Mexico, Caborca actually, met with a international middle eastern arms dealer and en route over to the Middle East,” the retired US Marine said.
“And I think of great import, is a Moroccon DST commander – their DST is their internal security forces on 16 October 2010, reported to his supervisors that Fast and Furious weapons were in the kingdom of Morocco en route to arm the rebels in Algeria.”
Currently, US lawmakers led by the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Darrell Issa, are questioning why it took so long for the Obama administration to release documents under a court-ordered subpoena, and “why there has been no real accountability for the officials involved,” according to Issa.