The Waco, Texas, raid by federal law officials against David Koresh's Branch Davidian compound occurred less than one year after the tragedy at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, when two members of Randy Weaver's family and a federal marshal were killed during a standoff with federal agents. Each event began with a charge of violating federal firearms statutes. The Branch Davidians were accused of converting AR-15 semi-automatic rifles into machine guns, which are illegal under federal law. When the standoff ended on April 19, 1993, at least 80 people had lost their lives, including both members of the religious cult as well as law officers. The Waco raid galvanized militia movements, which believed that the federal government had declared war on the American people. Pro-gun groups took the opportunity to challenge the federal government's motives and tactics in enforcing gun control legislation.
The Branch Davidians, a religious sect that believed the apocalypse was near, also believed their leader, David Koresh, a 33-year- old erstwhile rock-and-roll band member, was the second Messiah. Approximately 130 Branch Davidians were living at the compound situated just seven miles northeast of Waco. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF) officials were concerned over the group's alleged stockpiling of illegal firearms and were considering how to serve an arrest warrant on Koresh and search the headquarters for illegal weapons with a minimum of disturbance.
On the morning of February 28, 1993, despite warnings that the Branch Davidians had received advance warning of a raid, 100 BATF agents jumped from cattle trailers and headed for the complex. Gunfire began as the agents attempted to enter the compound. When the shooting stopped, four BATF agents and six Branch Davidians, including Koresh's 2-year-old daughter, had been killed. The government then began a siege that lasted 51 days. More than 700 law enforcement officers from various jurisdictions, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the BATF, the Waco police, the National Guard, and the Texas Rangers took part in the extended standoff. Although the FBI successfully negotiated the release of 20 children, Koresh and his followers refused to surrender.
The FBI cut off electricity, used loudspeakers to play discordant music, and kept searchlights on the building during the night. None of these tactics appeared to create any dissension in the religious group or bring about any significant defections. Basing her decision on alleged child abuse among the Branch Davidians, Attorney General Janet Reno ordered an assault on the compound. Early on the morning of April 19, two tanks drove into the wall, and shot tear gas into the building. However, the occupants still refused
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Publication information: Book title: Encyclopedia of Gun Control and Gun Rights. Contributors: Glenn H. Utter - Author. Publisher: Oryx Press. Place of publication: Phoenix, AZ. Publication year: 2000. Page number: 326.
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