Two guns used in a firefight that killed a Border Patrol agent in Southern Arizona in December were part of a series of purchases being tracked by federal authorities, reports the Los Angeles Times.
Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed Dec. 14 near Nogales during a gun battle with suspected border bandits.
Federal law enforcement sources, who asked not to be named, confirmed to the Times that the guns were part of an investigation into illegal gun sales. Critics have said that Project Gunrunner, run by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, is not concerned enough with actually stopping the guns from falling into the wrong hands.
The Times reports:
Sources said U.S. authorities did not have the ability to adequately monitor the movement of the guns toward the southern border, in part because current laws and low levels of staffing.
As a result, "the next time they became aware of those weapons was when they turned up at the crime scene," said one source, who, like others connected to the case, spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing criminal investigation.
"My worst fear was that they would be used in a homicide of a Mexican military official or a Mexican police official. It crossed my mind that they would be used against U.S. forces, but I didn't think it would happen this soon," said another federal law enforcement source.
Republican Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa said on Monday that he had evidence that the guns used in the Terry firefight were part of the ATF sting. No other agents were injured in the attack, but one of six people arrested in the investigation was wounded. The six suspects were all being held on felony immigration charges and haven't been charged in Terry's death.
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