Rumbles on the Border


The Knox Report

From the Firearms Coalition


Rumbles on the Border


 By Chris Knox


(Phoenix, Arizona)  At least twice this December, Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF) agents have held press conferences here in Phoenix to announce seizure of a “cache” – or maybe caches – of “assault-type weapons.”  According to the latest reports, agents now have one man in custody on felon-in-possession charges.  The guns, which have so far only been displayed on tables for television cameras, have not been described in detail, but appear to include AK-47 and AR-15 type rifles, as well as several handguns, ammo for each, and .50 caliber ammunition, although no mention has been made of a corresponding rifle.  Numbers of guns involved in the seizure(s) range from 42 to 62, and it’s so far unclear even whether the most recent stories refer to two separate incidents or the same one.  At the time of this writing no agents were available for comment or clarification.

Beyond the most basic facts, the reporting quickly degenerates into press release journalism.  In a December 27 Associated Press story , 42 guns were assigned a value of $250,000 yielding an average value of $6,000 apiece.  The media have also unquestioningly published ATF agents’ speculation that the guns are bound for Mexican or Los Angeles gangsters, that the guns were purchased at gun shows or in straw sales, as well as solemn intonations that the guns are “weapons of war” and “the weapon of choice” for drug dealers and gangsters. 

The only trouble is that the guns in question were in a storage locker, not in transit or being transferred, and there is now some question as to whether the man in custody came into possession of the guns prior to his felony conviction, or how they ended up in the storage locker. 

This is only the latest in a string of recent stories linking, however tenuously, southbound guns with northbound “smokes and folks” from Mexico.  We’ve seen several such stories here in Arizona over the past year.  With a 350 mile border that features no natural barriers such as the Rio Grande, Arizona’s smuggling problem is huge.  We don’t deny the existence of the problem, but neither are we surprised by the spin on the stories. 

In March of 1987 Neal Knox likened a rash of news stories and editorials focusing on “quickie gun purchases” to the artillery barrage that presages a battle.  “In every war for 200 years,” he wrote, “when the pre-dawn darkness is lit by the flashes of distant artillery, it signals the beginning of another battle.”  The battle that was beginning back in 1987 would last for seven years.  It was the waiting period bill that would eventually become the “Brady Law.”  Both the Brady Bill and the Clinton “assault weapon” ban would pass in 1994. 

The latest rash of stories seems to follow the customary pattern of defining a problem around a particular gun, practice, or “loophole.”  The agents then presented their case to the press to get the greatest effect.  Phoenix ABC affiliate channel 15, which apparently ran the story straight from the ATF, featured a near-hysterical on-camera newsreader who said, “The ATF tells me that these guns were only going to be used in the worst crimes imaginable.”  The story goes on to assert that most of the guns were “bought at gun shows” and that they were destined for gangs in Mexico and Los Angeles.  We have a link to the story on our web site,  It’s a shining example of bad television journalism.

Based on this and similar stories that have begun to crop up in the national media, it’s apparent that we’re in the early softening-up barrage.  Expect increasingly lurid coverage of any story involving a military-pattern firearm. 

It’s too early to make serious predictions about this year’s elections, but it’s safe to say that whoever takes the Oval Office in 2009 will be willing to sign a renewal of the Clinton “assault weapon” ban.  Even thought the Democrats are ducking the issue in this election year, don’t think that they’ll let the issue rest forever.  The Democrats certainly remember the drubbing they took in 1994 as a result of their passage of the ban.  But it isn’t hard to imagine a new bipartisan hysteria whipped up by some incident of violence, particularly on the border. 

When that happens, Congress is liable to be primed to “do something,” nevermind whether that “something” is effective or even right.  God save the Republic from a Congress in such a panicky state of mind.



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