By now, most people have heard of the "Fast and Furious" scandal, stemming from an operation conducted out of the Phoenix office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE). During that sting, a number of guns were allowed to "walk" across the border to Mexico in order to allow BATFE to track an organization of "straw" gun buyers.
The operation became a scandal when some of the guns started turning up at Mexican crime scenes, and even were involved in the killing of a Border Patrol agent in southern Arizona.
The operation has come in for criticisms from many quarters and is the subject of Congressional investigations.
While some of the criticisms are certainly justified, the loudest critics seem to have selective memories.
Just a few years ago, during the previous presidential administration, another very similar BATFE effort called Operation Wide Receiver did much the same thing - allowed weapons to cross the border with Mexico, ostensibly to use the weapons to track criminal organizations there.
It failed, not as spectacularly as Fast and Furious, but it still failed miserably.
At the time in 2006, it pretty much escaped notice. Certainly, many of the critics of Fast and Furious now ignored Wide Receiver then.
The NRA is a good example of this.
They started criticizing BATFE and the Department of Justice over this in February, following up in February again, February (yet again!), March, March (again), April, May, June, June (again), June (yet again!), July, July (again), July (yet again!), July (one more time for good measure), August, and September.
That list is just the NRA's press releases that directly reference the operation. It doesn't include the anti-Mexico/Central America propaganda spouted by the NRA's communications shop. They spent the spring trying to deflect attention from the inconvenient fact that most of the crime guns in Mexico come from the United States.
In addition to the press releases, Wayne LaPierre, the NRA's executive vice president and the primary voice and face of the NRA has been ranting into any microphone that somebody puts in front of him ("Biggest cover up since Watergate" is my personal favorite).
By comparison, the NRA's press releases on Operation Wide Receiver -
Now, I'm not accusing the NRA of engaging in anything illegal here. However, if they ever want to regain some credibility in civil society, they need to become more than a partisan press release generator/marketing agency for gun manufacturers and retailers.
Jay Bookman of the Atlanta Journal Constitution has a more in-depth column on Fast and Furious here.
This post is written as part of the Media Matters Gun Facts fellowship. The purpose of the fellowship is to further Media Matters' mission to comprehensively monitor, analyze, and correct conservative misinformation in the U.S. media. Some of the worst misinformation occurs around the issue of guns, gun violence, and extremism, the fellowship program is designed to fight this misinformation with facts.