Waco, as we go to press, stands for “We ain’t comin’ out.” Americans can and do make jokes about anything, particularly current events. That’s the good news. The bad news is that ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms—nee Bureau of Prohibition and now part of the Treasury Department, today under Lloyd Bentsen, former U.S. senator from Texas and running mate of Michael Dukakis in 1988) is an agency run amok. It hungers after fame and is apparently willing to kill to get it. ATE wants to be a mini-FBI, doing the good law-enforcement things, beloved and respected by the public and the press. From that comes bigger budgets and more agents—the natural progression for power-hungry bureaucrats.

To that end, ATF has launched several highly publicized raids against previously peaceful, though non-mainstream, groups of people—of which the Koreshians are just the latest. Last year, it was the Weaver clan in Idaho—Weaver’s wife, young son, and dog were killed by ATF. That sad, ridiculous episode was finally solved not by the feds but by one of my competitors for presidential votes. Lieutenant Colonel Bo Gritz.

There was also the raid in Washington state, where a baby was left unattended in a bathtub for three hours while ATF agents questioned her handcuffed parents about their religious beliefs. Then, the raid in Oklahoma where a perfectly legal gun safe was illegally cut open with oxyacetylene torches by ATF, who then left loaded firearms King around for neighboring children to play with. Then, a mess caused by ATF in Maryland. . . . But you get the picture.

Who are the Koreshians, led by David Koresh, born Vernon Howell? They are a religious group with offbeat tenets, who were living peaceably on their farm near Waco, Texas. (Waco, by the way, is also home to the leading Southern Baptist university, Baylor, which bans student dancing.) You could even call the Koreshians “screwball,” I suppose, for their beliefs that Koresh is Jesus Christ and that he has free sexual access to all his followers’ wives. But is this sufficient reason to kill them? Remember that the original Christians were considered screwball by their ruling authorities, the Roman Empire, and were killed for their beliefs. Did that make it right?

The saddest part of this tragic farce is that four ATF agents and perhaps 11 Koreshians were killed. (By the time you read this, the episode may be history, and a full list of casualties should be public.) And for what? What reason did ATE give for the unprovoked attack(s)? ATF claims they had an arrest warrant for Koresh’s violations of ATF regulations. Allegedly, Koresh had one or two fully automatic rifles that were not registered with ATF and for which taxes were not paid—$200 per year each, or a maximum of $400. So ATE mounts a major offensive against a religious sect for a $400 tax? Does this make you squirm?

Does this sound like Nazi Germany, or maybe Communist Russia? To make matters more suspicious, ATF would not divulge the warrant (as of early April). That is, they wouldn’t allow the press or any civilian to see the arrest warrant, which is supposed to be a public, court-issued document open to all. Did they really have a warrant prior to the attack?

Compare this mess to the situation six years ago when a similar charge was made against Koresh. Then, the county sheriff called him in for questioning, asking him to bring his guns with him. Koresh complied peacefully, was exonerated, and went back home. End of story. That’s the way to handle it. Use the least amount of persuasion necessary, not the most amount of force available. This is a hard lesson for power-mad federal bureaucrats to learn, but the FBI—to its credit—did learn it at Wounded Knee (‘Indian uprising”) 20 years ago. ATF has never learned it and shows no inclination to do so.

Recently, I was the guest on a nationally broadcast radio talk show about the Waco situation. One irate caller was a woman in law enforcement, who said that she was “sick and tired of civilians telling law enforcers what to do.” The lady was apparently serious. In the United States, with our Constitution and our traditions of freedom, civilians are already in control of law enforcement, from local police all the wav up to military defense forces. That’s the American way, thank God.

Unfortunately, her attitude is typical of many police, who increasingly feel that you and I are their enemies, with a war existing between them and us. Thus, their purpose is not to protect us and do our bidding, but to fight us at every turn. In their mind, if we would just let them do what they want, they’d clear up lawlessness in short order, although they admit it would be bloody. No kidding—that’s exactly what the Nazis did in Germany, and what the communists did in the Soviet Union. And many police (not all of them) want to do the same thing here in the United States. They lust after unbridled power, starting with flak jackets and fully automatic weapons that they don’t want us—mere civilians—to own. After all, we might shoot back at them if they attack us.

And that’s what happened in Waco. Koresh and his followers shot back. Yes, he’s paranoid. Yes, he’s convinced that Armageddon is near. Yes, he and his group were fully armed and willing to die to defend their screwball way of life. But should the federales try to wipe them out simply because they’re nonmainstream? Should our government suppress religious and political dissent through force of arms? Should the Constitution be ignored?

That’s what’s happening, more and more often. Tell me: How bad does it have to get before the American public smartens up and throws the bums out on election day? Must we wait until the storm troopers come marching down Main Street? Until the dreaded knock on the door at 3 A.M.?

Don’t laugh. It could happen to you. Especially if you own guns.