As we reported previously, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) recently hit up Uncle Sam for $81.3 million to fund Project Gunrunner. That’s the program the ATF created to stem the mythical (if politically correct) “iron river” of illegal guns flowing from the U.S. to Mexican drug cartels. I repeat: $81.3 million. This year. On top of the agency’s “normal” $1 billion plus annual budget. So far, so bad. The Office of Inspector General had a look and tore the ATF a new one, excoriating Project Gunrunner for its ineffectiveness and inefficiency. That was then (last month). This is now. And now the ATF is crowing about nabbing five—count ’em five—gun runners. And indicting four others. Here’s the list . . .
Oswaldo Ramirez, 29, of Lakewood, an illegal alien who allegedly arranged and was present at most of the firearms transactions;
Victor Huerta, 20, of Paramount, who allegedly participated in several of the gun transactions;
Ernesto Figueroa Chavez, 21, of La Puente, an illegal alien who allegedly supplied the gun in three transactions prior to being deported to Mexico in October;
Robert Francis Evangelista, 32, of Montebello, who was allegedly involved in seven firearms transactions;
Sergio Herrera, 30, of South Gate, who allegedly sold one firearm
Ivan Reyes, 34, who is a fugitive currently being sought by authorities for allegedly selling one firearm and being involved in a narcotics transaction;
Robert Michael Roybal, 23, of El Sereno, who allegedly was involved in two firearms transactions and is currently in state custody;
Ramon Lopez, 33, of South Los Angeles, who allegedly was involved in one gun transaction and is currently in state custody; and a ninth defendant who is charged with participating in one gun transaction and is the subject of an ongoing investigation into his identity
As our headline proclaims, I make that sixteen guns. Or around $5m per gun, if we’re talking about the Project Gunrunner funding. That said, I’ve got plenty of questions for the ATF (I’ve left messages, check back for an update). Such as . . .
1. Was this a sting? Did the ATF “lure” these buyers into an illegal transaction?
2. Are these “straw purchase” related busts? In other words, did the defendants purchase the weapons from federally licensed gun dealers or on the black market?
3. Where were the guns headed? TTAG has long maintained that the so-called “iron river” supplies otherwise law-abiding Mexicans with firearms to defend themselves against the drug cartels and their corrupt allies in the police, national guard and army.
4. Does the ATF ever nail anyone on their own?
Meanwhile, we’ve also noted that the ATF seems to use reward money in a large number of cases (click here for today’s example). Is that a good thing or a bad thing, and does that money come out of a separate budget?