Note: There continue to be some concerns that hearings could affect
possible future prosecutions. But the movement is driven by the
belief that the perhaps the only prosecutions for wrong doing would
come from AZ. There is little to no confidence out here that the
federal government will do anything at all. At least before Feb. 2013
State House speaker launches special panel to investigate botched gun-
Howard Fischer Capitol Media Services Arizona Daily Star | Posted:
Tuesday, January 24, 2012 12:00 am | Comments
PHOENIX - Not willing to rely on a congressional probe, state House
Speaker Andy Tobin created a special panel Monday to investigate the
botched Fast and Furious program that let straw buyers purchase
weapons in Arizona for Mexican gangs.
"This happened here in our state," Tobin said. "This happened to
people who lived here and worked here. And now a Border Patrol agent
who worked here was killed here."
Agent Brian Terry was shot to death in 2010 near Rio Rico. Two of the
weapons the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were
supposed to be following - and lost track of - showed up at that scene.
State Rep. David Burnell Smith, R-Scottsdale, who will head the
committee, said he has two goals.
One, he said, is whether federal officials broke any Arizona laws in
allowing the gun sales to go forward. The other is to see if state
laws need updating to prevent future occurrences.
But Smith already is making some charges of his own against ATF about
how they treated owners of Arizona gun shops.
"They were forced to sell guns when they didn't want to and
threatened to have their licenses taken away from them" if they did
not cooperate, he said. "We want to protect Arizona citizens from
this type of conduct."
Under the program, weapons dealers were instructed to allow purchases
to go through to straw buyers, those who were legally entitled to
have weapons but where there was reason to believe they were getting
them for someone else. The Department of Justice said the idea was to
follow the guns into the hands of those not legally entitled to have
them, creating an opportunity for prosecution.
But the program went seriously wrong, with agents losing track of
more than half the 2,000-plus weapons.
Aside from the guns found near where Terry was shot, ATF officials
admitted its agents are aware of 11 instances where a firearm that
was supposed to be part of Fast and Furious was recovered in
connection with a violent crime in this country.
Smith acknowledged that U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., has been
conducting hearings in front of his House Oversight and Government
Reform Committee. But he said the failure of Issa's committee to come
to any conclusions - and even to get some of the evidence it seeks -
does not foretell failure by his own panel.
"We got local people who know what happened," Smith said. "They're
willing to come, willing to talk and to tell Arizona what happened."
Rep. Daniel Patterson, D-Tucson, agrees it is appropriate for the
state to take its own look at the issue.
"I think you can make a credible argument because there was such a
significant nexus in Arizona, from the ATF office in Phoenix, agents
in Arizona and then, of course, the death of Border Patrol Agent
Terry in Southern Arizona," he said.
A Justice Department official said earlier this month there is
evidence going back as far as 2006 that police could have prosecuted
low-level figures for illegally trafficking in firearms but opted to
instead see if the weapons could be traced to more senior gang members.
Tobin promised not to make the inquiry a partisan affair in this
"There is no facts that won't be taken in in this committee," he
said. "The committee is going to see where this leads, and there's
nothing that's off the table."
State Attorney General Tom Horne who attended Monday's press
conference did not say he supports what the speaker wants to do.
Horne said he was simply there at Smith's request.
"We will follow the investigation," Horne said. "We will process the
information. What we then do with it I can't predict at this point."
The next step in the federal probe is a Feb. 2 hearing where U.S.
Attorney General Eric Holder is expected to testify about what happened.
Read more: http://azstarnet.com/news/local/crime/state-house-speaker-