The 'Gunwalker' scandal: Should the ATF chief lose his job?

A law enforcement program that gave assault rifles to suspected gunrunners went horribly wrong — and there's pressure for someone to take the fall

Kenneth Melson (right), the director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, poses with Mexican officials last October: Melson may resign this week.
(Image credit: ALEX CRUZ/epa/Corbis)

Kenneth Melson, acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, is expected to resign this week, with a scandal raging over the agency's "Fast and Furious" anti-gun trafficking operation. ATF agents let suspects buy 2,000 AK-47s and other guns — hoping to them catch them in the act of smuggling the arsenal to drug cartels in Mexico — but then lost track of some of the lethal bait. Two assault rifles found near the spot where a Border Agent was killed in Arizona were later traced to the program, also known as "Gunwalker." Does Melson deserve to lose his job over this? (Watch a Fox News discussion about the controversy.)

Of course Melson has to go: It's "painfully obvious" that the ATF has been obstructing Rep. Darrell Issa's (R-Calif.) House oversight committee investigation of this gun-running fiasco, says Brad Kozak at The Truth about Guns. Melson's only possible defense is that "he was clueless instead of willfully breaking the law," and that hardly "absolves him of any guilt." Resigning is the least Melson can do.

"ATF Death Watch 17: CNN reports Melson to resign under pressure"

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But Melson shouldn't be the only one to resign: "Gunwalker could not have gone as far as it did," says the San Francisco Examiner in an editorial, "without the approval of senior Justice Department officials, including Attorney General Eric Holder." He should resign, too. It would be a "miscarriage of justice" if Melson alone took the fall for this colossal and deadly mistake.

"Don't make Melson a Fast and Furious scapegoat"

The whole thing reeks of politics: It's fair to ask questions about why ATF thought this "apparently harebrained ploy" was a good idea, says Mary Sanchez in The Miami Herald. It's also fair to ask whether Issa's hearings are "motivated — or at the very least tainted — by politics." Issa won't even allow testimony about gun control, even though our loose gun laws are flooding Mexico with assault weapons. That makes Issa sound like a man pushing an agenda, rather than justice.

"Cops and robbers ... and politics"

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