But that's exactly what leadership within the Department of Justice and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is charged with doing, in an apparently harebrained ploy to get close to Mexico's drug cartels.
The plan was dubbed Operation Fast and Furious. Foolish and Fatal might be more accurate.
In 14 months, agents in Phoenix tracked the sales of more than 1,700 guns, mostly purchased by straw buyers - buyers procuring them for criminals. The goal was to then see where the guns turned up, in an attempt to bust drug kingpins.
Many ATF agents complained bitterly about the operation, frustrated that they were not allowed in many cases to make busts and seize weapons they knew were destined for cartel gunmen. They say they were told to go against all training and sense of humanity, to watch as guns were sold to straw buyers of suspected cartels, then let guns and the traffickers walk. All in the interest of catching bigger fish.
One ATF agent testified: "I cannot see anyone who has one iota of concern for human life being OK with this."
Another agent charged, "It's like they grabbed the ATF rulebook and threw it out the window."
And ATF agents dreaded the inevitable.
When Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot and six others killed by a gunman, Phoenix agents braced. They feared the gun would be one they'd let walk.
Finally, tragedy occurred. In December 2010, U.S. border agents pursued a small group of armed criminals they believed were preying on undocumented immigrants crossing the border. In a shoot-out, Agent Brian A. Terry was murdered. Two AK-47s were found by the 40-year-old ex-Marine's body in the Arizona desert. The initial sales of both guns from a Phoenix-area gun shop, along with serial numbers, had been carefully tracked by ATF agents.
Only with Terry's murder did the heated concerns of ATF agents find any traction. Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa and Rep. Darrell Issa of California, both Republicans, have issued a report charging that Operation Fast and Furious has "contributed to the increasing violence and deaths in Mexico," a result that was "regarded with giddy optimism by ATF supervisors." More than 38,000 have died in drug violence in Mexico since 2006.
The government says neither weapon found at the scene fired the fatal shot. But it doesn't believe it has the gunman who did either, as one suspect remains at large.
Some suggest that if a kingpin had been toppled during Fast and Furious, the outcome would be easier to stomach. Tell that to Terry's grieving family.
And that's not what happened.
A mere 20 straw buyers have been indicted for lying on forms they filled out to buy the guns. With the vast majority of those charged, ATF agents knew about their dealings before the operation began. Many agents argue that other, less deadly police methods like the use of informants could have been used.
Issa, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, began hearings on the ATF operation this month. It is worth asking whether the ATF officials are following best practices in their current Project Gunrunner operations - indeed, whether they would have been so eager to press on with them if it wasn't mostly Mexicans who were dying from the trafficked guns.
But it is also imperative to ask whether Issa's and Grassley's inquisitions aren't motivated - or at the very least tainted - by politics. Issa began his hearings by warning that no testimony would be admitted that commented on gun-control laws or legislation. That's a tell.
Oversight ranking member Rep. Elijah Cummings (D., Md.) countered that "no legitimate examination of this issue will be complete without analyzing our nation's gun laws, which allow tens of thousands of assault weapons to flood into Mexico from the United States every year, including .50-caliber sniper rifles, multiple AK variants, and scores of others."
How much do you want to bet that's a thread that won't be allowed to unravel in this or any hearing in the near future?
E-mail Mary Sanchez at firstname.lastname@example.org.