AK-pattern semi-automatics were by far the most common weapon types obtained by straw purchasers in Operation Fast and Furious, according to various reports. The imported Romanian WASR-10 rifle and its “Draco” pistol variant, AR-pattern rifles, FN Five-seveN pistols, and 50 BMG rifles made up the bulk of the weapons purchased during the operation.
AK-pattern rifles and pistols, and AR-pattern rifles are some of the most common semi-auto firearms in America. Interest in these weapons skyrocketed due to the drama anti-gun organizations drummed up when they coined the phrase “assault weapon,” attaching it to these and similar firearms in order to craft the 1994 AW ban. The side effect was to make these firearms far more desirable. Today, entire shooting sports have been developed around the AR in particular.
Interestingly enough, the selective-fire versions of these weapons can be had far more cheaply on the black market than the semi-automatic version in U.S gun shops (selective-fire versions, if they can be found, require an extensive background check conducted over weeks, and cost tens of thousands of dollars). A selective fire AK-47 or AKM can be had for $100 or (far less) depending on conditions on the black market, while semi-automatic versions routinely cost $400 and up in U.S. gun stores.
AR-15 rifles routinely cost $750 for the most basic versions, and quality versions can easily run more than $1000 each. The cartels raid armories and buy selective-fire M-16 and M-4 rifles from deserting or corrupt Mexican military members for far less than the semi-automatic rifles finding their way to the cartels with federal government assistance, or obtain them from the same South American armories that they get their grenades from. It is a bit harder to pin-down a “street price” for an M-16/M-4 in Mexico, but cartels can probably obtain them for $5o0 or less.
The point, of course, is that it isn’t remotely cost-effective for cartels to buy these weapons in the U.S.
Yet the AK- and AR-pattern weapons that are most bitterly opposed by gun-grabbing groups and politicians in the United States are the most common weapons purchased by Operation Fast and Furious.
This curious trend continues with Operation Fast and Furious’ proclivity to purchase the FN Five-seveN pistol.
The Five-SeveN is a 5.7x28mm pistol developed as a companion weapon for the FN P90 PDW. Both were designed to use small high-velocity cartridges with low recoil signature, and the ability to penetrate soft-body armor when used with specific AP ammunition that is banned in both the United States and Mexico, except for law enforcement and military sales.
The various gun-banning organizations quickly labeled the Five-seveN the “cop killer.” They attempted to claim that even the non-armor piercing ammo available to civilians could penetrate armor, and even did their own “tests.” Their calls to ban the pistol increased after it was used in the Fort Hood shooting, even though we were “lucky” that the shooter used a pistol that had such little real-world stopping power. Mexican cartels do indeed like the Five-seveN, and even ape the Brady Campaign by calling it the “mata policia,” Spanish for “cop-killer.” Due to its 20-round magazine, unconventional cartridge, and sensationalized name, the Five-seveN is the most scapegoated handgun in America by gun control advocates.
Also, 50 BMG weapons are significant psychological weapons, in addition to being impressive physical weapons. They have tremendous penetration and range that make them excellent anti-vehicle weapons. The downside is that they are huge, heavy, and very difficult to maneuver and fire, and it is difficult to find trained marksmen to take advantage of their capabilities.
They are status symbols for cartels, and the rifle variants are used to a limited extent in specific situations. But what is interesting in particular about some of the Fast and Furious 50 BMG weapons purchased are that Barrett and TNW firearms are the most prominent purchases.
The Barrett makes sense as a status purchase or if the semi-auto variants are those being used (most 50 BMG rifles are bolt-action single-shots), but TNW weapons are built to look just like the M2 military 50 machine gun. They are massive, easy to track (TNW is one of a handful of companies that manufacture these weapons), and utterly impractical — and yet they have been purchased by Fast and Furious and recovered in Mexico to great fanfare.
Brady and other gun control advocates have been trying to get 50 BMG-caliber weapons banned for years based upon hysteria, despite the fact that five-foot long, 30-plus pound weapons are simply not used in crimes.
Perhaps it should not be surprising that every one of the Fast and Furious weapons are among those that gun prohibitionists like the Joyce Foundation, Violence Policy Center, and Brady Campaign have tried to have banned.
Attorney General Eric Holder, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and President Obama have all stated they would like to see the sales of these weapons to civilians either heavily restricted or banned outright.
So: Is it plausible that Operation Fast and Furious just happened to focus on selling the very weapons anti-gun groups want to ban south of the border with the intent that they would be used to commit murder? Knowing that cartels can either get such weapons at lower cost and less risk in Mexico, or don’t need them at all?