By Mike Lillis - 08/29/12 10:52 PM EDT
The Republicans' 2012 platform directly blames the Obama administration for the shooting death of a U.S. Border Patrol agent, as well as unnamed others along the Mexican frontier.
Adopted Tuesday by Republican delegates gathered in Tampa, Fla., the platform says Operation Fast and Furious — a now-defunct gun-trafficking program run by the Justice Department (DOJ) — “resulted in the murder” of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry, who was killed in a December 2010 shootout in Arizona, where a pair of firearms linked to the operation were recovered.
“We condemn the reckless actions associated with the operation known as 'Fast and Furious,' conducted by the Department of Justice, which resulted in the murder of a U.S. Border Patrol Agent and others on both sides of the border,” reads the platform.
The document was welcomed by the National Rifle Association as among the strongest stands on gun rights of any party platform.
The Fast and Furious sting has been under fire for over a year and a half, after an agent at the DOJ's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) accused the agency of refusing to prosecute suspected straw buyers in order to track smuggled weapons to Mexican drug cartels.
Hundreds of guns sold to suspects monitored by the program have gone missing, the ATF concedes, and two assault rifles purchased months earlier by one of those suspects were recovered at the scene of Terry’s killing.
The episode sparked an investigation by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, who has accused U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder of withholding documents he says are vital to the probe — a charge Holder has denied.
“Justice has blood on their hands,” Issa said in January, referring to the DOJ.
Behind Issa, House Republicans voted in June to hold Holder in contempt of Congress — the first time in the history of the country that a sitting Cabinet member has been held in contempt.
Democrats have roundly condemned the Fast and Furious program, but they've also been quick to defend Holder, saying there's no evidence the attorney general knew anything about the ATF's sting operation. The contempt vote, they say, was a politically motivated attempt to embarrass President Obama amid a tight race for the White House.
Some leading Democrats have wondered why the Republican critics — who are all but unanimously opposed to tougher restrictions on gun sales — are so focused on the guns surrounding Terry's death, and not the criminals who used them.
“The premise is that somehow letting these guns go across the border resulted in this tragic death,” Rep. Steny Hoyer (Md.), the Democratic whip and a vocal gun-reform advocate, said in June. “[But] people kill people, not guns, I'm told on a regular basis.”
Hoyer was referring to the bumper-sticker slogan — "Guns don't kill people, people kill people" – frequently adopted by opponents of tougher gun laws.
“I hope you see the contradiction in the positions being taken,” Hoyer added.
Last month, federal prosecutors released the names of four suspects wanted in Terry's killing, but they have declined to comment on the gun linked to the killing. A fifth suspect has been in custody since the night of the shootout.