Critics of Fast and Furious, the ill-conceived and mishandled federal law enforcement sting operation, should feel rightly vindicated by a internal U.S. Justice Department investigation.

The Inspector General’s report “revealed a series (of) errors in judgment and management failures” in the program run by federal prosecutors and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which allowed thousands of weapons to be sold to low-level criminals in the hopes that it would lead to kingpins in Mexican drug cartels.

The program came to a halt when guns in the Fast and Furious database were used in a shootout in which a Border Patrol agent was killed. The critics rightly claim that the people who allowed the guns to drift into the hands of criminals bear some of the responsibility for the consequences of their actions, and the report identifies 14 Justice Department officials who should be disciplined, and two senior officials immediately resigned.

The whole episode should reopen a national dialogue about gun crime. The old argument “guns don’t kill people, people do” was not enough to silence the program’s critics, who certainly agreed that asking where the gun came from was a relevant question in the aftermath of the agent’s death.

It was outrageous to find that agents of the federal government had deliberately let the gun “walk” and that irresponsible decision contributed to the fatal shooting.

But these are not the only guns that get into criminals hands, and some Fast and Furious critics are the same people who object to reasonable gun control laws that make it harder for criminals to get guns and ammunition.

It’s important to protect the rights of law-abiding citizens who want guns for legal purposes such as self-defense, but it is also vital for public safety to limit illegal sales.

Permitting sales without background checks, the so-called gun show exemption, is just as misguided as letting guns “walk” in Fast and Furious.