Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney slammed Barack Obama on Operation Fast and Furious during Tuesday night’s second presidential debate — the first instance in which the gun-walking scandal has shown up in such a large campaign event.
In response to a question about curbing the availability of assault weapons, the former Massachusetts governor pointed to the “the greatest failure” of the Obama administration with regard to gun violence: Fast and Furious.
“They used those weapons against their own citizens and killed Americans with them. And this was a program of the government. For what purpose it was put in place, I can’t imagine. But it’s one of the great tragedies related to violence in our society which has occurred during this administration,” Romney said. “Which I think the American people would like to understand fully, it’s been investigated to a degree, but — but the administration has carried out executive privilege to prevent all of the information from coming out.”
The Republican-led House voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress in June after Holder refused to hand over documents related to the Justice Department’s response to the congressional investigation.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives operation aimed to track some 2,000 guns as they were were purchased by straw buyers and smuggled over the border. The operation was an attempt to gather evidence on and prosecute the wider gun trafficking networks feeding violent Mexican drug cartels.
Hundreds of guns went missing, however, and two were found at the scene of a shootout between Mexican bandits and U.S. Border Patrol agents in December 2010. Agent Brian Terry was killed in the gunfight. Holder has since called the gun-walking strategy “fatally flawed” and told Congress he was unaware of the tactics being used.
Obama asserted executive privilege over a number of Justice Department documents under subpoena by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, lead by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.). Issa has sued Holder in federal court to try and overturn Obama’s assertion of privilege and gain access to the internal documents.
In Tuesday night’s debate, Obama asked moderator and CNN’s chief political correspondent Candy Crowley to prod Romney before he moved too far away from the assault weapons ban question.
“Governor, Governor, if I could, the question was about these assault weapons that once were once banned and are no longer banned,” Crowley said, jumping in.
Romney went on to describe the assault weapon ban he signed into law in Massachusetts when he served as governor.
Obama did not address Fast and Furious in his response to the question nor in his rebuttal to Romney’s statements. He did say he would be in favor of having the federal assault weapons ban reintroduced. Romney said he would rather not see new legislation on gun laws.