With public attention riveted on the murder/conspiracy trial of the Branch Davidians, little attention has been paid to the Treasury Department's investigation of the conduct of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF). Most of the media quickly saw through the veneer of objectivity and rightly ignored the report released last September. However, as with most government documents, there is some truth hidden among the chaff. Appendix G of the report is a brief history of federal firearms enforcement. It is startling in its candor in revealing the real reason behind the gun control movement in this country.
Gun control is being sold to the American people as a crime fighting measure. (There are also attempts to make it an environmental and health issue.) Sarah Brady has publicly admitted that the Brady Bill signed into law last November 30 will have little effect on crime. But, she added, it was a necessary first step. President Clinton warned, "This is the first step. There is more to be done. We cannot stop here." To what are Sarah Brady and President Clinton referring? Appendix G provides the answer.
The report admits that the BATF raided the Branch Davidian community at Mt. Carmel to enforce contemporary gun control laws. It adds:
In a larger sense, however, the raid fit [sic] within an historic, well-established and well-defended government interest in prohibiting and breaking up all organized groups that sought to arm or fortify themselves.... From its earliest formation, the federal government has actively suppressed any effort by disgruntled or rebellious citizens to coalesce into an armed group, however small the group, petty its complaint, or grandiose its ambition.
Appendix G relates how the experience of Shay's Rebellion (1786-87), the Whiskey Rebellion (1794), Fries Rebellion (1799), the fugitive slave rescues of the 1850s, John Brown's raid on the Harper's Ferry federal arsenal (1859), the Civil War, Southern resistance to Reconstruction, the Pullman Strike (1894), etc., created an intolerance to organized, armed groups on the part of the federal government. This paranoia led Congress to pass the National Firearms Act of 1934, not "to curb the gangsters' ability to arm themselves" with automatic weapons and sawed-off shotguns as advertised, but "to discourage ownership of such weapons without outlawing them." It admits that "No self-respecting gangster would want to register, much less pay the tax, on his Tommygun." It goes on to say:
The passage of the National Firearms Act of 1934, the first federal effort to control ownership of firearms, grew out of this historic fear of armed organizations.... In recent times, the federal government has shown itself even less patient with armed groups.... As both history and recent events clearly show, the United States has never tolerated armed groups residing within its borders. The intent of the particular organization, whether ideological or criminal, mattered little.... ATF's enforcement focus retains the flavor of that historic concern with armed organizations.
The Branch Davidians were not criminals and cults are not illegal. It was not criminal activity that brought the Branch Davidians to the attention of the federal government, but the fact that they were an organized, armed group dissatisfied with the status quo. Government agents created the impression of illegality to justify their suppression of the Davidians and to dissuade similar dissenters. This is why Attorney General Janet Reno warned that "more Waco-like standoffs will occur in the near future. I hope an example has been set ... to discourage those who are tempted to join cults." The Brady Bill and the even more draconian gun control measures in the upcoming crime bill are but the latest steps dating back to colonial times to disarm the American people, not criminals, in defiance of the Second Amendment.
Note: When Jon Roland read the above article, he said to himself, "What this country needs is more armed groups."
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