In the news, there are three cases of “preppers” being arrested for having explosive devices.
On December 5, 2014, the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives) released a statement titled, “Leader of River Otter Preppers Sentenced”. The Tampa, FL court sentenced Martin Howard Winters (55), the leader of the River Otter Preppers organization, to 30 months of imprisonment. The sentence was for “manufacturing and possessing destructive devices”. August 28, 2014, Winters pleaded guilty to the charges. (1)
This sentence follows that of his co-defendant, Michael Keith Bonta (50) who was “sentenced to 18 months in federal prison for making the destructive devices for Winters”. Bonta also pleaded guilty (9/2/14).
The destructive devices, designed by Winters and built by Bonta, were booby traps. The traps “operated with a tripwire that project[s] pellets from a 12-gauge shotgun shell.” Bonta admitted to having created 20 devices for Winters.
The two agencies involved in the investigation, the FBI and US Marshals Service, joined forces to investigate the case. When Winters was first approached in his vehicle for arrest, he escaped into the woods and later turned himself in to authorities. (2)
Former Convicted Felon Prepper Arrested
Michael Watkins of Citrus Springs, FL was arrested for stockpiling guns and explosives. An avid fan of the TV series Doomsday Preppers, Watkins was described by a neighbor as being nervous about world events and his fear that the US government would take away his 2nd amendment rights. (3)
That amendment states:
A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
It is a point of much debate concerning the scope of intent that the language was meant to encompass. (4)
Watkins had fortified his home with steel rolling shutters on the outside of windows, an 8-foot wall around a portion of his home, along with an underground bunker, greenhouse and chicken coop. All of these were part of his doomsday scenario preparations.
However, it was his huge stockpile of guns and explosives that an anonymous tip alerted authorities to investigate and subsequently arrest Watkins. Agents found an arsenal of 150 guns AR-15s and AK-47s and shotguns, along with thousands of rounds of ammo, along with 17 homemade pipe bombs.
A convicted felon, Watkins had been “convicted of multiple felonies, including two escapes and handling and fondling a child”. Watkins owns an A/C repair shop and a motor sports shop. According to investigators, he had plans to open a third business, a gun shop he intended to call Blood Bath and Beyond.
Convicted Felons and Firearms
According to the University of North Carolina School of Government, firearm rights after a felony conviction can be restored.
Federal law also imposes a firearms ban for felony convictions. 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1). Federal law lifts this ban if a person’s civil rights have been restored unless the restoration does not permit the person to ship, transport, possess, or receive firearms.”. 18 U.S.C 921(a)(20).” (5)
The restoration is done on via state by state regulations. However, anyone convicted of a violent crime, in most cases, cannot have the right to bear arms restored.
There certainly are special circumstances that can be petitioned. It wasn’t reported on whether or not Watkins’s rights had been restored or if he was in violation of the law regarding convicted felons and weapons.
Another Convicted Felon Prepper Arrested
The News Tribune in Tacoma, WA reported on January 15, 2014 that a featured survivalist on National Geographic Channel’s TV show, Doomsday Preppers, Tyler Smith (26), was arrested.
The TV series episode featuring Smith was seen by the local law enforcement and they moved into action against Smith, who is also a convicted felon.
According to the report, Smith was a prepper because he wanted to ensure his family was set for any kind of disaster. However, as a convicted felon in Washington State, he was prohibited from owning guns and weapons.
The report continues that the Pierce County Sheriff deputies told Smith that they were there because he hadn’t registered as a “Level 1 sex offender”. This designation is given to “those least likely to reoffend”.
The News Tribune reported that Smith was convicted in 2009 for “inappropriately touching a drunken 14-year-old girl in an Auburn parking lot” and “communicating with a minor for immoral purposes”.
Also in 2009, he was charged with “first-degree theft in Pierce County for failing to pay for a motorcycle he purchased and pleaded guilty”.
During the two month investigation, officers took video and photos of Smith using guns. In addition, Smith verbally threatened one of his neighbors while armed.
The News Tribune quoted Smith from the TV show saying in regards to his prepping, “We’re not in it to stockpile. We’re in it to take what you have and there’s nothing you can do to stop us. We are your worst nightmare, and we are coming.”
In an interview with The News Tribune prior to the airing of the TV show, Smith bragged that he had a map marked with places to take by force in order to get the supplies he might need in a doomsday scenario. (6)
These are three of the most talked about arrests of preppers. (7) Do you know of others? Do you think convicted felons should have the right to bear arms? How safe would you feel if one of these men were your neighbor?
References & Image Credits:
(2) The Blaze
(3) ABC Action New
(4) Cornell Law
(6) The News Tribune
(7) TSW: The Key to Our Survival
(8) Earthworm via photopin cc
(9) colemama via photopin cc
(10) brentdanley via photopin cc