Lingering consequences from Waco, TX

The shootout last May at a restaurant near Waco, TX is far from resolved.  Video surveillance from inside the dining area has been released showing members of the motorcycle clubs crouching, running, and occasionally firing shots at targets outside the field of the camera’s view.  One biker has blood on his face and shirt.  Marcus Pilkington, the last person still in jail following the incident, was released on a $50,000 bond on Monday.  To date, no one has been charged with murder.

The more this shootout is looked into, the more like an accumulation of copulations it appears to be.  A judge who has imposed a gag order on evidence is a former law partner of the district attorney, and the grand jury hearing the evidence has a Waco detective as the foreman.

Is all of this a suggestion that the police behaved badly?  Perhaps.  The initial reports indicated that biker clubs came looking for a fight.  What the evidence will eventually show is anyone’s guess at this point.

The possibility of irregularities in investigations and the desire to cover up such problems are troubling enough, but of greater concern is the approach of police and prosecutors that is becoming more and more common.  Law enforcement is increasingly becoming militarized, in large part an effect of our War on Drugs.  The USA PATRIOT Act has handed prosecutors extraordinary powers in response to the terrorism of 9/11, an act that was passed in haste and is yet to be repented.

Certainly, a shootout between rival groups is an immediate threat requiring swift and hard action. In the Waco case, the police were aware that something was brewing, but the restaurant operators were unwilling to cooperate.  But a rush to bring an emergency to an end carries with it the obligation to make things right as soon as possible, and the way things are unfolding in Waco leaves me in doubt as to whether that latter expectation will be realized.

Have we come to the point as a society that we accept any action, so long as it comes with the promise of keeping us—presumably the good people—safe?  As I said in a previous article about this incident, if you know a shootout is coming, it’s best not to attend.  But does that give us permission to shake our heads and believe that we would never come to experience the same treatment?  We who value gun rights are particularly vigilant when it comes to attempts to impose new gun controls.  We also need to be watchful over all rights, including the rights of the accused.

This is reminiscent of the tension between danger and safety.  Recall here that “danger” carries with it the idea of having power and authority in addition to its contemporary meaning of a threat of harm.  We give ourselves the illusion of safety by ceding choice to those who promise to protect us.  But if we can be protected from terrorists because our private communications are open to the government, what’s to stop us from being protected against political ideas not favored by those in office?  If we can be kept away from wicked substances—though it’s far from clear that we can be—what’s to prevent minders of our well-being, be they insurance companies or public health officials, from deciding the limits of all food and drink we take into our bodies?  As always and with all rights, we must give sober consideration to what controls we can accept and where we draw the lines beyond which restrictions on our freedom cannot be allowed to go.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of

Latest Reviews