"Family Friendly" Machine Gun Festival Welcomes Neo-Nazi Extremists
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The Knob Creek Gun Range in West Point, Kentucky advertises its World Famous, twice-a-year Machine Gun Shoot as "Family Friendly" entertainment. The slogan: "Nothing brings families together like blowing stuff apart...safely."
I won't deny the red-blooded-American joy of firing automatic weapons at exploding targets.
Still I have to ask: What's up with the little kids in Nazi shirts?
I was on site at the Knob Creek Machine Gun Shoo t fewer than 20 minutes last Saturday before I passed a shaved-head lad with with a Totenkopf death head on his chest. (The Totenkopf was the symbol of the Nazi SS division that ran death camps like Auschwitz during the Holocaust.)
The shirt looked brand new. I took that to mean the kid or whoever gave it to him bought it from one of the dozen or so permitted vendors who openly sold white supremacist merchandise. This included a wide selection of t-shirts and flags bearing symbols popular with racist skinheads and neo-Nazis. (And no, I'm not counting Confederate battle flags.) Also for sale were the race war fantasy novels Hunter and The Turner Diaries by William Pierce , founder of the National Alliance, a notorious hate group. A Friends of the NRA fundraising booth was located within sight of a stall of swastika flags.
Guns for sale at the machine gun shoot ranged from high-priced fully automatic rifles and handguns equipped with silencers offered by federally licensed gun dealers all the way down to $100 used 9mms for sale in the parking lot. Apart from the official machine gun shoot vendors, festival-goers are permitted to sell firearms on the grounds. This leads to a freewheeling cash-and-carry market.
Widespread media coverage of the machine gun shoot has for years been fawning, with the notable exception of a 2009 photo essay in the Washington Independent that not only documented Nazi merch for sale at Knob Creek but also served to infuriate "queen of the birthers" Orly Taitz, who rented a booth that April to sign up members of the military for her loony-tunes lawsuits.
The shoot has been a magnet for extremists since at least the mid-1990s, when militia leaders organized recruitment drives in the festival campground and leadership summits in nearby motels. (The event began in 1979.) Militia literature for sale at the shoot this spring included copies of the U.S. Militiaman's Handbook, a step-by-step guide for "R-2," the second American Revolution.
"When municipal, township, county, or local area law enforcement agents attack or seek to confine or control the U.S. Militia or its individual members, those agencies should be totally eliminated in the initial attack," it advises. "Do not allow any law enforcement agents to escape. Kill them all."
More typical gun show fare included handbooks on how to be a hit man and how to make Semtex, a plastic explosive. Also available were survivalist texts such as How to Survive the Coming Economic Collapse and War, and dozens of different manuals for homemade silencers. My personal favorite: The Handy Dandy Super Duper Junkyard Silencer Book: Or How to Shoot Your Neighbor's Dog Without Getting Caught.
I've attended the machine gun shoot off-and-on since 2006, when I covered it for the Southern Poverty Law Center . Back then I asked Knob Creek Gun Range owner and festival head Kevin Sumner about the sale of extremist materials. "I do not think of us as an extremist or militia gathering, but we do not regulate any items sold," he said. "If someone wants to sell white supremacist and neo-Nazi crap, that's okay with me. If it offends anyone, they don't have to stop at that vendor's table. It's just like strip clubs. I don't care nothing about them and they can be wherever they want. I have the ability to stop in or drive by. This is America and we do have the right to choose. That's why I do not restrict any of the vendors at our show."