Rep. Steve Pearce: Who's Accountable For 1,500 Guns ATF Agents Lost Track Of?
New Mexico Rep. Steve Pearce said on Saturday he wants to know who else needs to be held responsible for a failed operation that has left more than 1,500 guns unaccounted for.
According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, it launched Operation Fast and Furious to discover how Mexican cartels were getting American guns.
Officials said that Arizona ATF agents watched gun smugglers buy more than 1,500 automatic weapons and walk across the border with the guns. And then, they said, they lost track of them.
Many guns resurfaced at crime scenes on both sides of the border, and the Columbus, N.M. mayor, police chief and village trustee has since been arrested, officials said.
"(The operation) has actually been a dismal failure," Pearce said.
The congressional report showed a major link between Fast and Furious and the arms trafficking ring in Columbus.
According to the congressional report, New Mexico border patrol agents pulled over Blas Gutierrez, a village trustee and the mastermind behind the Columbus gun-running ring in January of last year.
Inside the car, agents said they found a stash of weapons, including AK-47s and pistols known as "cop killers." According to the report, a number of the guns had been purchased by the main suspects in Operation Fast and Furious just days before
But instead of running the serial numbers while the guns were in their hands, border patrol agents said they handed the weapons back and let Gutierrez go. The guns were then smuggled across the border, and police said one wound up at a murder scene in Mexico.
"I agree 100 percent that (the ATF or border patrol has blood on their hands). They should be held personably accountable in these matters," Pearce said.
A border patrol spokesman said he couldn't comment because it's an ongoing investigation.
"I think we want to know where the 1,600 guns are at this point. We want to know the link to New Mexico, and how many firearms were released here. How many firearms were provided to individuals, and who are those individuals?" Gov. Susana Martinez said.
So far, the interim director of the ATF has been assigned to a new job, and the U.S. attorney in Arizona has resigned in the wake of the controversial operation.
Pearce said he wants to know who needs to be held accountable in New Mexico.