Operation Fast and Furious is the name of a federal firearms trafficking investigation in Arizona that went awry. Republicans in Congress charge that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms deliberately allowed hundreds of guns that were purchased by middlemen for Mexican drug cartels to fall into criminal hands. Two of those guns showed up where a federal Border Patrol officer was murdered in Arizona in 2010.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has testified multiple times before a House committee investigating Fast and Furious. Holder's department has furnished documents to the committee, but he has withheld others, citing executive privilege. As a result, Holder became the first attorney general in history to be held in contempt of Congress by the House last month. Some are claiming that Holder and, by extension, President Obama, are presiding over a cover-up on par with Watergate.
However, the political firefight over Fast and Furious has obscured a more important concern, the toothlessness of U.S. gun-sales laws. You might assume, for example, that it would be against federal law for a U.S. citizen who doesn't have a criminal record to buy a dozen or two AK-47s at a time from a federally licensed gun shop. If so, you would be wrong in that assumption.