As the name suggests, Waco, 1993, was by no means an everyday occurrence to be overlooked. It was the longest and bloodiest siege in modern American history. To be more precise, David Koresh (1959 – 1993) founded his movement on the basis that he, as the anointed Messiah of humankind, was given a final revelation to usher in the End of Days. His prophecy came to explain the apocalyptic intent behind the Seven Seals (Revelation 5-8). With this in mind, it should be briefly noted that Koresh was an aspiring mystic. Emerging from an offshoot of an offshoot of the original Davidian movement, the Davidian Seventh Day Adventists began to revolutionize and revive the role of modern prophecy in their reading of scripture. In fact, Koresh was inclined to follow in the footsteps of the prophets (as is the case in Sufi tradition) when he began to follow his passion for music; learning to play guitar and forming a band to share his views with the Waco community in musical form. It was now and forever that the words of the ancient prophets were coming to fruition, and the totality of these words culminating in Lord’s chosen.
Now, I do not wish to prolong this theological introduction to Koresh without reason. Miles away from civilian residence, Koresh established his new community on Mount Carmel, Texas. The Davidians minded their own business, more or less. I believe that that the downfall of Koresh and his cult, is, and will likely always be, the most symbolic act of heroism against federal tyranny that we, as Americans, could possibly face on our own soil.
For 5 years, Koresh had adherents to the movement flock to him from across the U.S., England, Australia, and Israel. In his brilliance, Koresh knew that the militant tendencies of the group would attract these followers; this allowed him to have most of his congregants fully trained in the art of firearm combat, especially with the confidence of over 150 weapons and 8000 rounds of ammunition to defend them. June 1992 was when the FBI began to spy on the Mount Carmel compound, as word had spread that the Church was converting basic semi-automatic weapons, into automatic machine guns, able to fire hundreds of rounds a minute. Within 6 months, Robert Rodriguez, an undercover federal agent, was used to gather evidence against the group, gathering enough evidence to have a warrant of arrest filed against Koresh, requiring a full scale police siege of the property, which is exactly what happened in February of 1993.
At this point, the reader should be wondering why no attempts were made to peacefully negotiate the confiscation of these hostile weapons. To the best of my knowledge, no federal or state law prohibited the use of fully automatic assault rifles under the conditions Mount Carmel was in. Even Clinton’s infamous Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which outlawed such weapons in all 50 states, was not signed into law until 1994- a year after the siege. I wish to be corrected if I am mistaken on the basis of law, but I do not see why the ATF would need to ground a military scale operation onto civilian ground, when absolutely no offensive crime was committed on their part.
It is also interesting to note that local and state officials played close to no roll in dealing with proper legal execution. The matter was mysteriously handed over to the Feds. Officials made contact with Koresh inside the compound, and for the next 51 days, authorities made exchanges to negotiate with Koresh, as there are a faction in the FBI that only realized now that offensive force will not deter the unbreakable adherents of Mount Carmel. One officer relates how in the midst of a shootout, Koresh engaged with the officer in lengthy theological analyses, recalling verses as if he wrote them. These people meant no harm. Was it not against this exact tyranny that the Bill of Rights ensures citizens a means of defense?
Many in the founding years of the U.S. believed that governments are prone to use soldiers to oppress the people. English history has shown that this risk could be controlled by permitting the government to raise armies only when needed to fight foreign adversaries. For other purposes, such as responding to sudden invasions or other emergencies, the government could rely on a militia that consisted of ordinary civilians who supplied their own weapons and received some part-time, unpaid military training. However, Anti-Federalists at the Philadelphia convention of 1787 argued that the Constitution would essentially disable states from defense against federal usurpation. The Federalists responded that fears of federal oppression were overblown. Their point was exemplified when they claimed that it would be impossible to subdue the people through military force, since they were all armed. In a kernel, the amendment was easily accepted because of widespread agreement that the federal government should not have the power to infringe the right of the people to bear arms, any more than it should have the power to abridge the freedom of speech or prohibit the free exercise of religion.
Unfortunately, the changes in society have been ignored by the judicial force in the U.S. since the Bill of Rights was first ratified in 1791. The traditional militias became a topic of historical discussion, and state militias were eventually incorporated into the federal military structure. The nation’s military would tend to national defense from foreign terror, and the people would manage balance against local tyranny and usurpation. While most Americans, including myself, do not fear the nation’s armed forces, but to the contrary, we embrace them as heroes, but virtually no one thinks that an armed populace could defeat the national army in battle.
The impossibility of practicing one’s second amendment rights is illustrated with the test of time, as civilians readily supplied themselves with the very same weapons they would need if called to serve in the militia, while modern soldiers are equipped with weapons that differ significantly from those generally thought appropriate, or legal for civilian use. Civilians no longer expect to use their household weapons for militia duty. It’s nice to own firearms for the sake of hunting and other recreational purposes, as well as for self defense against home intruders, but this was not the intent of the amendment (as shown above). Another important legal development was the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Second Amendment originally applied only to the federal government, leaving the states to regulate weapons as they saw fit. Although there is substantial evidence that the Privileges or Immunities Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment was meant to protect the right of individuals to keep and bear arms from infringement by the states, the Supreme Court rejected this interpretation in United States v. Cruikshank (1876).
In the past, the judiciary treated the Second Amendment as Paul of Tarsus treated the law: “the letter [of the law] kills.” But in brighter hopes, the SCOTUS holding of District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) invalidated the congressional law prohibiting all civilians from possessing handguns in the nation’s capital. The majority ruling made clear that the context behind the Second Amendment protects a private right of individuals to have arms for their own defense, not only a right of the states to maintain a militia. Authoring the Court’s ruling, Justice Scalia invokes much historical precedent to support the stance that “the right to keep and bear arms” was given to the people. In fact, Scalia is careful to mention that the “people” to whom the Second Amendment right is accorded are the same “people” who enjoy First and Fourth Amendment protection: “‘The Constitution was written to be understood by the voters; its words and phrases were used in their normal and ordinary as distinguished from technical meaning.’ United States v. Sprague, 282 U. S. 716, 731 (1931); see also Gibbons v. Ogden, 9 Wheat. 1, 188 (1824). Normal meaning may of course include an idiomatic meaning, but it excludes secret or technical meanings…” I raise these issues to the public to be aware of our past, and to realize that state regulation against our only real “arm” of protection, is only one step away from another Waco siege. It just comes to show you, one can learn life changing lessons from even the ‘wackiest’ of mankind. May the bravery of the 80 martyrs at Mount Carmel remind us all of our individual rights: God given and irrevocable.