According to an investigation by the Center for Public Integrity (CPI), a nonpartisan journalism organization, the men also transported into Mexico several guns allowed to “walk” out of an Arizona gun shop by Phoenix BATFE agents running Operation Fast and Furious. The Department of Justice has maintained that BATFE never knowingly allowed guns to be transported to Mexico, though internal emails obtained by congressional investigators seem to contradict those statements.
President Obama has called Fast and Furious, in which since late 2009 BATFE allowed an estimated 1,880 guns to walk out of US gunshops in order to trace them to higher-ups in the Mexican cartels, “a serious mistake.” One congressional investigator called the scheme “felony stupid,” and the operation may, in fact, have violated the Arms Export Control Act by turning the taxpayer-funded BATFE itself into a de facto gunrunner.
But at the very least, the Columbus case hints at how difficult it became to trace the walking guns, says Dave Kopel, a Second Amendment expert at the Independence Institute in Golden, Colo. The whereabouts of some 1,400 Fast and Furious guns remain unknown.