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Something Like Waco

About a year after the raid on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, I was invited to take part in a discussion of the Waco incident on a program on the National Educational Television network. The program was a call-in show, and after my hosts and I had recounted the facts of the Waco raid and its aftermath, I was struck by the remarks that several callers from various parts of the country had to offer. Some of them claimed to know or to have heard about similar incidents in which local, state, or federal law enforcement agencies had staged armed raids on private homes or businesses, without adequate proof of wrongdoing by those against whom the raids had been mounted, and with results that often left innocent citizens injured or their property and rights violated. Although neither I nor my hosts on the TV show had heard of these incidents and to this day I have no way of verifying what the callers were reporting, it began to occur to me then that Waco was perhaps far from being an isolated case. Not too long after the show, however, news of just such mini-Wacos began to creep into the light of day.

The television show on which I appeared was filmed in April 1994. Four months earlier, on January 10, 1994, officials of ten different organizations concerned with civil liberties or Second Amendment rights (including the liberal-to-left American Civil Liberties Union and the conservative...

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