Amid the current political furor over gun control, I’ve seen it implied on Facebook and elsewhere that firearms had nothing to do with Timothy McVeigh’s infamous attack on a federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995.
The truth is that firearms had everything to do with it. McVeigh used a fertilizer bomb only because it was more efficient than guns would have been. It also afforded him a better chance of fleeing the scene.
His motivation for the crime was deeply rooted in his paranoid obsession with guns and his fear that the Second Amendment was under siege by an oppressive federal government.
McVeigh was introduced to firearms as a child by his grandfather and often expressed a desire to own a gun shop when he grew up. He reportedly even took guns to school on occasion to impress his friends. After graduation from high school, he became became even more intensely interested in guns and was an avid reader of such mercenary trash as Soldier of Fortune magazine.
As an enlistee in the U.S. Army, McVeigh spent most of his spare time reading about guns, sniper tactics and explosives. He also gravitated toward white racists among his fellow soldiers. He eventually applied for service in the Army’s Special Forces but was rejected on psychological grounds.
Upon his return to civilian life, McVeigh became increasingly wacky, complaining that the Army had implanted a microchip in his ass to keep track of him, devouring more and more anti-government screeds and drifting from one gun show to another, where he encountered kindred souls.
At these gun shows, he took to distributing gun-rights literature and selling bumper stickers that read: “When guns are outlawed, I will become an outlaw.” He once told a reporter:
The government is afraid of the guns people have because they have to have control of the people at all times. Once you take away the guns, you can do anything to the people. You give them an inch and they take a mile. I believe we are slowly turning into a socialist government. The government is continually growing bigger and more powerful and the people need to prepare to defend themselves against government control.
At one point, McVeigh prevailed upon his sister to illegally mail him 700 rounds of military ammunition, suitable for use in a machine gun or assault rifle. This was after an upstate New York gun shop, Johnson’s Country Store, refused to sell him the stuff.
Wikipedia says this of his obsession with firearms:
McVeigh defended the practice of owning multiple guns, saying it was like the common practice of keeping an assortment of screwdrivers in one’s toolbox; one needed to be sure of having the right tool for the job. He said that six particular guns were essential: a semiautomatic, magazine-fed rifle(for defending against large mobs); a bolt-actionhunting/sniper rifle(for killing large gameor defending against an entrenched marauder); a shotgun(for fowl hunting); a .22 caliber(to hone shooting skills and bag small game); and a pistol(for close-in self-defense). He viewed guns as the first tool of freedom, necessary to protect supplies in the event America fell into chaos.
For a while, McVeigh contemplated a campaign of assassinations of certain prominent officials, including then-Attorney General Janet Reno. Ultimately, however, he decided to bomb a federal building. The rest, as they, is history.
Shortly after 9 a.m. on April 19, 1995, McVeigh lit the fuse on a bomb in a truck he had parked in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Okahoma City. The ensuing explosion killed 168 people, including 19 children, and injured 450 others.
A self-styled defender of the Second Amendment had performed what he considered a patriotic act.