In 1993, the Branch Davidians sect, led by David Koresh, had their compound in Waco, Texas, raided by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). Church opponents and church supporters disagreed over whether a raid was "necessary".
The ATF view was that it was necessary to get inside the church compound, in order to use warrants to conduct a search to find evidence that compound residents had violated various federal laws. There was also a DOJ concern that young teen girls had been forced into polygamy with Koresh.
The opposing view is that, since the ATF already had a paid informant inside the compound they could get any evidence they needed; that there are ways other than a violent raid, supported with an army tank, and firing tear gas rounds into the building, to gain entry or arrest suspects.
Controversy also centers around the aftermath of the raid. Most compound residents died during the raid. Various parties dispute the cause of these deaths vigourously. The pro-government side is that the compound residents deliberately set fire to the compound to cause their own deaths: i.e., it was mass suicide. The anti-government side is that the action of tear gas rounds caused the fire.
An analysis by David Kopel and Paul Blackman suggests that the original raid was motivated by a desire to get good publicity for the ATF by seizing guns from "cultists". Kopel and Blackman say that the legal issue involved was not whether the guns in question were possessed legally but rather whether the proper taxes had been paid on them.
Paul Craig Roberts said:
"It now appears that the raid on the compound was intended to further the cause of gun control by televising into every home alarming scenes of a vast stockpile of weapons in the hands of fanatic cultists."
- Is a Search Warrant Your Death Warrant? from 'Fire Arms and Liberty'.
- David B> Kopel and Paul H. Blackman, The Unwarranted Warrant: The Waco Search Warrant and the decline of the Fourth Amendment, Hamline Journal of Public Law and Policy, 18:1, Fall 1996.