In the Heart of
Wearing orange foam earplugs to muffle the nearby thunder of relentless automatic weapons fire, a grizzled man with SS lightning bolt tattoos on his forearms pulls a little red wagon loaded with rifle ammunition. Carefully picking his way through the teeming crowd, he passes table after table laden with machine guns, gas masks, combat knives, war memorabilia and bomb-making guides. The man sheds his camouflage tactical vest to reveal a worn black T-shirt emblazoned with a Totenkopf, the Death's Head symbol of the
"It's .223-caliber, six barrels, basically you're looking at a hand-cranked mini-gun," she says.
The man asks, "What's the rate of fire?"
"Just as fast as you can crank it," she replies. "We just shipped a load of these babies to civilian security contractors in
"We need to ship a few to the border and start splattering Mexicans," he says.
Then he picks up his wagon handle and continues browsing the wares. Two hundred yards away, around the
At a former naval proving ground near
Every half hour or so, the upper range master declares a cease-fire. Festival workers remove the smoldering wreckage of junker cars and household appliances and then freshen up the supply of targets. During these breaks, a flamethrower operator suits up rental customers in silver stunt man suits and lets 'em rip for $195 per tank. Nearby, the crew of a privately owned field artillery gun pumps huge shells into a denuded hillside, drawing cheers from the bleachers. The concussive force of the explosions trigger hundreds of car alarms inside the vehicles lining both sides of a rural highway half a mile away, up a muddy hill and across a creek from the
The Knob Creek shoot started in 1979 as a local event, but now attracts machine gun enthusiasts from across the county. Attendance tops 10,000. Throughout the 1990s, it was a major gathering point and recruiting ground for antigovernment, paramilitary militias. They held meetings in the festival campground and leadership summits at hotels in nearby Shephardsville. In April 1998, a dust-up between leaders of the U.S. Theater Command and the Southeastern States Alliance at a militia unity conference during the Knob Creek shoot caused a lasting split that weakened the movement.
Knob Creek organizers have for years insisted that the majority of people who come to their machine gun festivals are not white supremacists or militia members. While that's probably true, a survey of tattoos, patches, T-shirt symbols, and merchandise at the April 2006 events provided strong evidence of a significant extremist presence. Sonny Landham, the 1980s action movie star who now shills for the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens, signed autographs and distributed
"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," the handbook advises. "Do not allow any law enforcement agents to escape. Kill them all."
While most of the violent extremist materials for sale were scattered amidst more innocuous items, one booth at the April 2006 shoot, housed in gun show stall C-22, offered nothing but hate paraphernalia: hundreds of neo-Nazi, white power, and hate rock T-shirts; Adolf Hitler, Rudolf Hess and Eva Braun coffee mugs; Hitler youth flags; and Celtic cross "White Pride World Wide" banners.
"I do not think of us as an extremist or militia gathering, but we do not regulate any items sold," Knob Creek Gun Range owner and festival chief Kenny Sumner wrote, responding to E-mailed questions about booth C-22. "If someone wants to sell white supremacist and neo-Nazi crap, that's OK 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
In past years,
Beginning in 2004,
Saturday night special
The Saturday night climax of every Knob Creek machine gun festival is the famous "night shoot." On the upper range, heavy machine gunners load their weapons with phosphorus tracer rounds and take aim through night vision goggles at glow sticks marking 50-gallon drums filled with gasoline and strapped with sticks of dynamite. The signal for the night shoot to begin is the whirring arrival of a black helicopter, its M-60 door gun spewing chartreuse tracer rounds from the sky.
The fiery explosions illuminate the grinning faces of thousands. The vast majority of them are white. But just as
© 2006 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
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