Here is theory that some Congressional Republicans believe: The Obama Administration intentionally handed over automatic weapons to Mexican drug cartels, who they knew would commit violent acts, because they wanted to scare Americans into supporting stricter gun laws.
That supposed series of events has now led Congress to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt.
Holder is caught up in a scandal over what happened during Operation Fast and Furious, one in a series of efforts started under former President Bush, in which firearms owned by the U.S. government are intentionally sold to criminals with the hopes that they can be traced back, and criminal activity can be monitored. One such firearm turned up at the crime scene where border patrol agent Brian Terry was killed.
Republicans cite the case as a national security issue, but they’ve simultaneously turned it into an indictment over what they believe is a conspiracy aimed at taking away their own firearms. They argue that this was all a ploy to expose how dangerous guns can be. Here are the facts you should know about the conspiracy, and who’s behind it:
The man who started the conspiracy theory also rallied people to break congressional windows. Mike Vanderboegh, a man who once called for militias to break the windows of members of Congress because of the passage of the Affordable Care Act, started this conspiracy theory. Rachel Maddow uncovered that Vanderboegh has been encouraging members of Congress to embrace the theory.
Major Republicans, including Darrell Issa, endorse this conspiracy theory. Among those are Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), who is Chair of the House Oversight Committee and is heading up the investigation of Eric Holder. In an interview on FOX, Issa said, “very clearly, they made a crisis, and they’re using this crisis to somehow take away or limit people’s Second Amendment rights.” He also pushed the theory at an NRA convention. But Issa isn’t the only one who is buying in: former Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich just two days ago agreed with the theory. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), and many other Republicans have voiced support for this theory too.
The NRA is driving the conspiracy theory paranoia though ads. The National Rifle Association is furthering the paranoia as a way to rally gun owners by running advertisements and a petition calling on President Obama to fire Eric Holder. The ads don’t specifically mention the gun control conspiracy, but the Executive Director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action is a full-throttle conspiracy believer. The NRA also threatened members of Congress who voted on the contempt charge yesterday, saying that a vote against contempt would reflect poorly on that member’s pro-gun ratings.
Conspiracy theorists blame Holder for a new gun law he didn’t make. Even if one were to believe the vast conspiracy theory, a linchpin in the theorists’ argument is based on a false premise. They say that recently Holder ordered the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) to report anyone who bought more than one large gun in five day as a way to track American gun owners. In reality, ATF made a request about reporting gun purchases and the Justice Department only approved it after a delay.
Issa defended Bush for the same thing of which he is accusing Holder. Issa has been tearing apart Holder for not wanting to hand over private communications from the Justice Department that could compromise ongoing criminal investigations. But when George Bush refused to do the same thing in 2007, Issa blasted the move as a “political witch hunt.”
Last year, the Vice President of the NRA said that there is “a massive Obama conspiracy to deceive voters and hide his true intentions to destroy the Second Amendment.” This conspiracy theory feeds directly into that sentiment. But there is absolutely no evidence that the President has any intention of tightening gun laws. In fact, he’s loosening regulations on firearm exports.