By Lee Williams
During the 30 years that have passed since ATF’s botched raid in Waco, Texas, which led to 82 civilian deaths – including 28 children – and four federal agents, the agency appears to have forgotten that when it picks fights for no reason and uses excessive force, law-abiding Americans pay with their lives.
A story we published last week – much to everyone’s horror – revealed that the ATF has started raiding again. It will only be a matter of time before another tragedy occurs and more innocent lives are lost.
ATF agents wearing tactical gear and bearing AR-15s raided the Oklahoma home of Russell Fincher, a 52-year-old high school history teacher, “kitchen table” gun dealer and Baptist minister.
Fincher, it should be noted, invited the ATF into his home when they called him prior to the raid. He offered no resistance, as you’d expect from a clergyman, but ATF agents hit his home like he was Southeast Oklahoma’s next bin Laden.
Anyone who has ever taken doors that were defended by more than a cooperative pastor and his terrified 13-year-old boy realizes that this is serious business. Raids rely on speed, surprise, and violence of action – not exactly the tactics that were needed at Fincher’s modest Tuskahoma home.
The ATF isn’t the only federal agency to cowboy up and start raiding. The Biden-Harris administration recently weaponized the IRS too, turning it into another well-armed paramilitary force which, like ATF, answers only to the president. The two agencies have even started raiding together.
Last month, a joint IRS/ATF tactical team raided Highwood Creek Outfitters in Great Falls, Montana. ATF agents were prohibited from seizing the gun shop’s 4473s, so the IRS agents took them. They seized thousands of the forms, which prompted Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen to express concern over the seizure, asking “What the hell does the IRS need with 4473s?” By now it should be clear that all were handed over to the ATF. Thankfully, no one was killed or wounded during the raid, but how long can that last?
A history of violence
ATF’s own history shows a complete disdain for the sanctity of human life. In addition to the scores of lives lost at Waco, a Deputy U.S. Marshal and Randy Weaver’s wife and son were killed during ATF’s Ruby Ridge fiasco. Their “Fast and Furious” scheme resulted in the death of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and hundreds of Mexican nationals, who were killed by the weapons ATF allowed to “walk” straight into the hands of the Mexican drug cartels. Sadly, the agency appears to have learned nothing from these deaths.
Both David Koresh and Randy Weaver visited nearby towns frequently. A local deputy could have easily and safely arrested either man without incident, but when the ATF gears up and dons its tactical blinders, they lose sight of simpler and safer enforcement options. Suspects who are innocent until proven guilty become the “enemy,” and thus deserving of a tactical response.
Many had hoped the Waco deaths taught the ATF a lesson and that we’d seen the last of their excessive uses of force, but last month’s raid of Fincher’s home proved nothing has changed. When they gear up, ATF sees law-abiding gun owners as the enemy, thus deserving of the same response they used with Koresh and Weaver.
To be clear, Fincher invited the agents to come to his home. A single special agent and a couple of inspectors certainly would have sufficed. There was no need for a SWAT team to swarm Fincher’s home, take him down and handcuff him in front of his 13-year-old boy.
The next Waco
Raids are inherently dangerous for both law enforcement and civilians. One instance of poor trigger discipline and someone can be killed. That’s why for most professional law enforcement agencies they are the tactic of last resort. Not so at the ATF. To them, we’re all just criminals, so no amount of force is excessive.
If the ATF is allowed to continue treating law-abiding gun owners and guns dealers like enemy combatants, it’s only a matter of time before more innocent American lives are lost.
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This story is part of the Second Amendment Foundation’s Investigative Journalism Project and is published here with their permission.