The Obama administration picked a quiet late-summer day to finally remove acting ATF director Kenneth Melson over the botched "Fast and Furious" operation that ultimately put assault rifles into the hands of criminals along the border. Melson wasn't fired though — merely relocated to a new Justice Department job. This is a great "win" for the NRA!

The ATF's "Fast and Furious" gun-tracking sting was an effort to sell thousands of guns to purchasers for Mexican cartels and then to use surveillance to track those weapons as they made their way up the chain. But the program was poorly monitored and agents lost track of many of the guns, which have been traced to dozens of crime scenes in Mexico City and the killing of one Border Patrol agent in Arizona. Whistleblowers in the ATF accused their higher-ups of ignoring warnings about the program going awry.

Melson will be relocated to an investigative unit in the Justice Department and replaced on an acting basis with B. Todd Jones, a U.S. attorney from Minnesota.

It was a terrible self-inflicted error from the ATF on which the administration's enemies were quick to pounce. But in the long-run, it's just another victory in the National Rifle Association's permanent war to delegitimize the ATF as an institution. "B. Todd Jones" will only ever be an acting ATF director, just as Melson was only ever an acting ATF director, and just as whoever else comes along next — especially in a Democratic administration — will probably only ever be an acting ATF director, serving without a mandate to turn the bureau into a more effective one. The Senate has not confirmed an ATF director since 2006, thanks to the NRA's successful lobbying efforts. 2006! They've all been acting directors since then. So if we want a better ATF, then the first step should be not subverting its very existence at every turn.

[Image via AP]