BOOK REVIEW: 'Guns Across the Border': Firsthand Account of Gunrunning Operations in Bush, Obama Administrations

Reviewed by David M. Kinchen
 BOOK REVIEW: 'Guns Across the Border': Firsthand Account of Gunrunning Operations in Bush, Obama Administrations
After reading Katie Pavlich's well-researched book about Operation Fast and Furious and its predecessors in the Bush Administration (link to my review of "Fast and Furious": I had no doubts that gunrunning and its aftermath represented yet another case of the Federal government's habitual policy lying to us -- just as the current IRS and the tracking of phone numbers of reporters Obama administration scandals are doing. Link to story about Justice Dept. secretly obtaining AP phone records:


 I've just read Mike Detty's "Guns Across the Border: How and Why the U.S. Government Smuggled Guns into Mexico" (Skyhorse Publishing, 288 pages, color photos, index,  $24.95) and I'm even more convinced that betraying a confidential informant like Detty comes just as naturally to many ATF and government lawyers as taking the Fifth Amendment comes to an IRS official testifying before Congress. (Update on said IRS employee: Lois Lerner has been placed on administrative leave: Link:


  My apologies to all the good federal employees, but there seems to be a culture of incompetence and deceit for many, as Detty shows in his book. He's backed up in his assessment by outstanding reporters like Sharyl Attkisson, the Emmy-award winning investigative reporter for CBS News, who contributed the foreword to Detty's book, and William LaJeunesse of Fox News.


  Detty sums it up toward the end of the book, on Page 233, with his description of people he worked for as a confidential informant for the Tucson, AZ office of the ATF:  


"All my life I had nothing but the greatest respect for federal agents and those who worked in the Department of Justice. Now, for the first time I was seeing them for what they were -- lazy, sloppy, self-protecting civil servants who cared more about self-preservation and collecting a paycheck than doing the right thing. The high regard I once had for these people has been replaced with contempt. I'd gone from someone who was extremely proud of my involvement in helping federal law enforcement to someone who was ashamed and embarrassed. I felt betrayed and was disgusted."


Starting out with agents like Travis Lopez of Tucson ATF, in 2006, Detty developed a warm and fuzzy relationship with agents like Jack Hinkley, Bill Newell and many others -- or so he thought -- as he began his role in  an undercover smuggling operation that followed the letter of the law, if not the spirit. Detty sold most of his guns at gun shows, and he followed the law with buyers filling out the required form ATF # 4473. (As a gun owner and member of the NRA, the Texas State Rifle Association and the Bay Gun Club, I don't recall the people manning the tables at gun shows asking me to fill out #4473. as I do at my gun store, when purchasing a firearm.)


 The scheme -- under the overall umbrella of Project Gunrunner -- was  intended to stem the flow of firearms to Mexico, based on the flawed -- as it turned out -- idea that Mexican drug cartels couldn't function without regular infusions of small arms from the U.S.  ATF --  the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives -- ran a series of “gun walking” sting operations, including Operations Wide Receiver and Operation Fast and Furious. The government allowed licensed gun dealers like Detty to sell weapons to illegal straw buyers so that they could continue to track the firearms as they were transferred to higher-level traffickers and key figures in Mexican cartels.

Motivated by a sense of patriotic duty,  Mike Detty, a Tucson gun dealer and free-lance author,  alerted the local ATF office when he was first approached by suspected cartel associates who wanted to buy lower receivers -- a component of the popular AR-15 semi-automatic version of the military M16. The "lowers", as they are commonly called,  required federal approval, while the "uppers" could be purchased on the Internet, Detty writes. Detty made the commitment and assumed the risks involved to help the feds make their case, often selling guns to these thugs from his home in the dead of night. The venue -- his suburban home -- surprised me. I wouldn't think of using a residence as a gun store.  Originally informed that the investigation would last just weeks, Detty’s undercover involvement in Operation Wide Receiver, the precursor to Operation Fast and Furious, which was by far the largest “gun walking” probe, stretched on for an astonishing and dangerous three years.

From my review of Pavlich's book:   "The White House continues to stonewall Congress and claims ignorance of the program -- when it's not saying it was a continuation of a similar program in the George W. Bush Administration, Operation Wide Receiver, launched by the Bush Administration in 2003 with close cooperation by the Mexican government. Pavlich presents what she -- and introduction writer Dobyns, who infiltrated motorcycle gangs at great danger to himself -- believes is incontestable proof that President Obama and Attorney General Holder willfully and knowingly sanctioned the program in order to advance their anti-Second Amendment agenda. Pavlich believes Obama and Holder wanted to demonize gun stores -- and gun owners who legally buy guns for hunting, target shooting and protection -- undermining the legitimate use of legal weapons."


Detty comes to the same conclusion about the demonization of guns by Obama and Holder, noting that in the run-up to the general election in November 2008, gun sales increased to the point where it was almost impossible to keep many weapons in stock, as gun enthusiasts feared that the new administration would ban "assault" weapons, which were actually semi-automatic versions of real assault weapons.   Read the very entertaining (many of the characters would be right at home in a Quentin Tarantino flick or even a Cheech and Chong one) "Guns Across the Border" along with Pavlich's book and reportage by Attkisson, LaJeunesse and others if you really want understand the depth of deceit by federal officials.   


  About the Author

Mike Detty has been writing for consumer gun magazines and law enforcement journals for more than twenty years. He received a BS in Criminal Justice Administration from the University of Arizona and later entered the officer ranks of the U.S. Marine Corps. His involvement in the firearms industry started with his own competitive shooting endeavors.
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