Less than a day after we went to press with this week’s feature profiling the Reese family of Deming and their trial for conspiracy, false statements and gun smuggling, the jury returned with a verdict.
Three of the family members were found guilty of making false statements on federal ATF forms. U.S. government prosecutors insisted throughout the trial that the Reeses knowingly sold weapons to so-called straw buyers, or middlemen, who were purchasing guns on behalf of dangerous Mexican drug cartels. Apparently the jury agreed, to a limited extent.
Yet with the possible exception of 20-year-old Remington (acquitted of all charges), it’s still hard to find the clear winner in this case.
The Reeses’ lives will certainly never be the same. Three of them are now convicted felons facing more jail time. While they may be able to petition for the restoration of their gun ownership rights, I doubt the ATF (which launched the undercover investigation of the family) will let them return to their longtime livelihoods of gun dealing.
The agency itself has been raked over the coals for losing track of guns that were purchased out of Arizona by known “straw buyers,” or middlemen. Many of those guns were subsequently trafficked into Mexico and used to deadly effect.
And the trial opened on the heels of a successful (and largely partisan) effort to hold U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt over Operation Fast and Furious. Supporters of the family that I spoke to outside of the courtroom were convinced that the U.S. government was trying to use the case to deflect attention away from their own malfeasance.
It was an overcast winter day when Mexican President Felipe Calderón stood at the main international crossing in Ciudad Juárez and unveiled a massive sign aimed at the U.S. side of the border. It made for a dramatic photo opportunity. A white sheet billowed behind billboard-sized letters fashioned from the twisted remains of guns that Calderón said were confiscated by law enforcement. They spelled out the words “No More Weapons.”