Quite Suddenly, Guns Kill People

“Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” That’s what the NRA and Republicans everywhere have been telling us for more than half a century. Why, it was just a short while ago, in the wake of an act of horrendous gun violence in Arizona, that Tea Party darling Rand Paul used a variation of it and reassured Fox News that: “… weapons don’t kill people. It’s the individual that killed these people.” Paul’s remark was in response to the Tuscon, Ariz., shooting that killed six and injured 14 others, including Gabby Giffords. But now all that seems to have changed. Now the gun is the be all and end all.

Republicans seem to believe that only two guns actually kill people: the two guns found in a patch of desert in Arizona connected to Operation Fast and Furious. All other murders are committed by bad people — not guns, which are good.

Those two guns (with serial numbers) were found near where Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was murdered. You may know it as the botched gunwalking operation “Fast and Furious.” Republicans, led by Daryl Issa, have made it clear they believe the presence of those two guns means U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has blood on his hands.

But have you heard any Republicans take public note of any of the following?

There were just seven ATF agents assigned to Operation Fast and Furious. Those agents were also simultaneously working on about a dozen other cases. They were spread pretty thin with more than 800 guns shops in the Phoenix area alone. The area is awash in guns with about 2,000 illegal guns every day flowing over our southern border. ATF agents are out-manned and outgunned.

Plus, Arizona is probably the easiest state in the nation in which to buy a gun. You can carry a concealed gun without a permit. In a bar. Or in the State House. And on January 15, 2010, Jaime Avila was a man who seemed to meet most of the requirements to buy a gun legally in Arizona: He was breathing, and wasn’t in jail or a mental institution.

The Republicans and the NRA love the idea of people having guns. They even insist that people on the Terror Watch List should be able to buy automatic weapons. Because what could possibly go wrong with that? The NRA and Republicans want everyone to have a gun so much, they have also pushed to have convicted felons get their right to own a gun restored, including people who have been convicted of first-degree murder. Because what the odds of that being some kind of problem?

The NRA has been so successful in scaring politicians into compliance with their “a gun in every pot” approach to modern civilization, that ATF agents and Department of Justice attorneys complain that the firearms trafficking laws, as they now stand, are virtually toothless.

“[P]urchasing multiple long guns in Arizona is lawful,” Patrick Cunningham, the U.S. Attorney’s then-criminal chief in Arizona would later write. “Transferring them to another is lawful and even sale or barter of the guns to another is lawful unless the United States can prove by clear and convincing evidence that the firearm is intended to be used to commit a crime.”

So back to Avila, a transient, but someone who appears to be fully qualified to purchase automatic weapons. At the behest of some unsavory middlemen, Avila bought three rifles in Glendale, Ariz.

The next day, an employee of the store faxed a copy of the ATF form 4473 that Avila completed to the ATF office in Phoenix. But that was a Saturday and then came Sunday, and Monday was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. So the agents didn’t receive the fax until Tuesday, and the guns were long gone. There’s no telling where the guns traveled over the next 11 months.

Then, in December of that year, a group Mexican bandits got in a gun fight with an elite U.S. Border Patrol unit looking for human traffickers. Agent Brian Terry was shot and killed. All of the attackers got away except for Manuel Osorio-Arellanes, who was wounded and captured. Two semiautomatic rifles were found at the scene. A trace of the serial numbers found that they were the same rifles Jamie Avila purchased 11 months earlier. They are those guns the ATF agents hadn’t seen. And they could have just as easily been any of the bazillion guns in the vast sea of iron flowing through that region every day. It’s not exactly like there were only two guns available, and the bandits cleverly snatched them up.

Manuel Osorio-Arellanes, the would-be bandit who is now charged with second degree murder in the death of Agent Terry, is a man with a long criminal record. He’s an illegal immigrant who was convicted of felony assault on a police officer in 2006. Back then, he was given a very light sentence. If President Bush’s Justice Department had pushed, Osorio-Arellanes might well have still been in jail on the day Agent Terry was on patrol. But Manuel Osorio-Arellanes was out and about. He’s now set to go on trial for Agent Terry’s murder on November 6.

Again, it comes back to Jaime Avila, the transient who acted as a straw buyer for the middlemen, was also caught and has pleaded guilty to charges of trafficking high-powered rifles. I wonder if the NRA will help him get his gun rights restored when he gets out?

But Republicans and gun lovers don’t think those two men are responsible for the death of agent Terry. They think U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is responsibile.

Senator Scott “Farm Coat” Brown and that famous varmint hunter Mitt Romney have both called for Holder to resign over this, even though Chairman Daryl Issa, the Captain Ahab behind this Republican obsession, testified before the House Rules Committee:

“During the inception and the participation through the death of Brian Terry, we have no evidence nor do we currently have strong suspicion” that Holder knew of the tactics. “We have just the opposite.”

There has been much confusion through all of this, but at least we know this much now with certainty: Guns kill people. And the NRA and Scott Brown and Mitt Romney all push for guns.

  • http://ronblau.com Ron Blau

    This is an excellent summing up of the pro-violence-masquerading-as-anti-violence stance of the NRA, as well as political pandering (so what else is new?) by the likes of Mr. Romney. The truly awful thing about the NRA and its enablers is that well-reasoned arguments like yours penetrate their armor about as well as squirts from a water pistol.

  • Barry Nolan

    Dear Ron,

    Nicely said. However, the NRA has issued the following statement: “Squirt guns don’t make people wet, people do.”


  • Elaine Casavant

    E X C E L L E N T READ

  • David

    So facts mean nothing to a liberal-slanted blogger. I understand that you have your opinion, but please, don’t write bullshit and pass it off as fact. Allow me to quote: “Plus, Arizona is probably the easiest state in the nation in which to buy a gun. You can carry a concealed gun without a permit. In a bar”. Um, no – please attempt to conceal carry in a bar in AZ so I can watch you get handcuffed and stuffed into a patrol car. Learn the actual law before you spout off your anti-gun rhetoric.

  • Barry

    Dear Dave,

    If you want to interact successfully with the reality based community – you are going to have to do a lot better than that.

    ARS 4-229, governs the actions of a gun owner entering a bar or restaurant that has a liquor license.

    ARS 13-3102 now allows Arizona residents to carry a concealed weapon without a permit.

    If you have a concealed carry weapons permit, you may legally enter with a firearm into a bar or restaurant that has a liquor license — unless the bar or restaurant has a properly posted sign that specifically prohibits it.

    Read it and weep – for Arizona.

    Your Liberal Slanted Blogger,

    Barry Nolan

  • MJ

    Thanks. There has been much heat but not much light regarding Fast & Furious.

  • R Lunn

    Unfortunaely you got some facts wrong.

    1. It wasn’t an automatic weapon.

    2. The dealer would not have sold the gun as it was a “straw sale” and these are illegal. But per the BATF’s request he allowed it to go through and as per their direction faxed over the 4473 form.

    3. The straw buyer passed the Federal Back ground check.

    • Barry

      Dear Mr. Lunn,

      Unfortunately – you get your facts wrong about my facts being wrong. A careful read of the piece will show you that I do not call the WASR-10 weapons that were found at the scene of Agent Terry’s murder “automatic weapons.” They are referred to in one spot as rifles – and in another as semi-automatic weapons – both of which are correct. Here is a link to info about a virtually identical weapon – with a picture and everything.


      The dealer who sold the WASR-10’s to Mr. Avila would have no way of knowing that he was a “straw man” without the ATF telling them. In Arizona – there is no law against the purchase of multiple weapons – no law against re-selling them, bartering them, or just giving them away. Under the law as it now stands – you can buy a bunch of guns and declare on the ATF form that they are for your own use – and then change your mind when you walk out of the store. And do whatever you please with them.

      There is no data base that the gun store could legally check to see if the prospective buyer had previously purchased boat loads of weapons from other stores.

      The ATF was told by the local US Attorneys – that to prove a crime under the weak and toothless laws now in place – you had to be able to prove that when Mr. Avila purchased the weapons – and filled out that ATF form and declared that the guns were for his own use – he had the intent at that moment that the guns would be used by someone else in the commission of a crime. In other words – the ATF would have to prove what Mr. Avila was thinking to make a case.

      This is why the ATF agents – going all the way back to 2006 and the Bush administration – were so frustrated – there was massive gun trafficking and next to nothing that could be done to really put a crimp in it. Arresting people like Avila on the spot did nothing – he is totally replaceable – expendable. There were 1,000’s of Avila-like characters, unemployed and unscrupulous, within rock throwing distance of any of the 100’s of gun stores in the Phoenix and Glendale area – ready and willing to make a few bucks from middlemen – just like in this case.

      That is why – back in the Bush administration – the idea of gun walking was hatched. Get the big guys – instead of a steady drip of sorry expendables. All because the laws were so toothless.

      Barry Nolan

      • R Lunn

        Actualy the BATF has a major training campaign in place where they train gun dealers on how to spot a straw sale.

        Rather than belabor this further, here are some good lilnks on the subject:


        For thos reading challenged, the atf has some cartoons on the subject at:

        Or if you like your video straght up:

        It’s pretty easy to spot, and dealers can pretty much tell if one is going on. It’s against the law as you know, but the atf told the Az dealers to let them go through and to notify the atf, which the dealers did. Too bad the atf wasn’t staffed enough… this is how people can and did get killed.

        • Barry Nolan

          Well Mr. Lunn, this is certainly interesting that you should post all this.
          Because if you go to the first link you provide – it is a link that is maintained by the National Shooting Sports Foundation – basically a PR group for gun dealers. And the site actually says: “there is simply no way for the Federal Firearms Licensee to know that the purchaser is lying” and so it’s not our fault. Perfect thing for a PR company for guns dealers to say. Because how would you spot a “straw buyer”? Extra tall? Shifty eyes?

          And the second link you provide goes to videos on YouTube from the ATF about fireworks. – No tips there about how to spot straw buyers of guns.

          So – I would ask you – if an estimated 84,000 illegal guns have made it down to Mexico from the US – how good a job do you really really think your guns dealers are doing at spotting a problem? And how much profit do you figure they are making – trafficking in death?

  • agingcynic

    Hilarious that you call someone ELSE Capt. Ahab.This was worth it if only to see you finally call an “undocumented person” the “illegal alien” he truly was. Even inadvertant truth is a good thing.

  • Barry

    Dear Aging Cynic,

    The first time someone enters the US without permission – it is a misdemeanor civil offense. Essentially, that is on a par with a speeding ticket. So calling someone an illegal alien who has never been deported – is sort of like calling everyone who has ever had traffic ticket an illegal driver. “Illegal alien” is not an accurate way to refer to someone who has committed a civil infraction.

    However, after someone has been deported once – it is a felony for them to come back without permission. Manuel Osorio-Arellanes had been previously deported – twice. He had committed a felony and was in fact – an illegal alien – even before he participated in the murder of Agent Terry.

    Thank you for your concern about using accurate legal terms for other human beings.

    Barry Nolan