ATF warns gun dealers on "potential civil unrest"

AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

We haven’t written about the death of Tyre Nichols and the five (now former) police officers who’ve been charged with his murder until now, largely because there hasn’t really been a Second Amendment angle to it. But with Memphis police releasing the body camera footage of Nichols’ beating at the hands of five officers today, cities around the country are prepping for the possibility of violent riots and civil unrest in addition to non-violent protests.


Rob Doar doesn’t live in Memphis. He’s part of the leadership of the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus and living far upstream from the Tennessee city on the Mississippi river. If gun store owners and FFLs in the Twin Cities are being warned about the potential for civil unrest, my guess is that similar alerts are being sent out by other field offices in major metropolitan areas.

I did check with my local gun shop in Farmville, Virginia, and as of mid-day Friday they hadn’t received a similar alert, so it doesn’t appear that this being sent to every FFL in the country. I’ve put in a request to the ATF’s public affairs office for more information about where, specifically, these alerts are being issued, and I’ll update this story if and when I hear back.

Hopefully these notes of caution are unnecessary and the protests that take place will remain non-violent in nature, but it sounds like the video is going to show some pretty horrific abuse on the part of the former officers, all of whom were fired and charged with second-degree murder* before the footage was released.

The shaken police chief of Memphis said Friday that the fatal cop beat-down of Tyre Nichols involved “acts that defy humanity’’ — adding it was as horrific as the notorious 1991 beating of Rodney King.

While the Tennessee city and the wider country braced for the explosive release Friday evening of the video of Nichols’ beating, city Police Chief Cerelyn Davis ripped the five allegedly involved officers — four of whom were sprung from jail on bail Friday morning after being charged with murder.

Davis told CNN she watched the footage of Nichols’ Jan. 7 beating for the first time Sunday and described it as “about the same if not worse’’ than the infamous video of King being viciously beaten by Los Angeles cops during a 1991 driving stop — which sparked some of the worst riots the city has ever seen.

Nichols’ beating is “very much aligned with’’ that level of violence, Davis said.

Police Chief Cerelyn Davis described Nichol’s beating as “about the same if not worse’’ than the infamous video of Rodney King. Memphis Police Department

“I was outraged. It was incomprehensible to me,’’ Davis said of the Nichols video.

“It was unconscionable. I don’t think I’ve witnessed anything of that nature in my entire career. Really. It was that bad.

“You’re going to see acts that defy humanity. You’re going to see a disregard for life, a duty of care, that we’re all sworn to. … There was an amount of aggression that is unexplainable.’’


As despicable (and criminal) as the officers’ actions may have been in their treatment of Nichols, setting a city on fire isn’t going to make anything better; a lesson that I hope was learned back in 2020. There is a place and even a need for righteous anger in times like this, but as we’ve seen, when it takes the form of an angry mob directing their rage against society at large, acts that are equally or even more monstrous as those they’re “protesting” can quickly and easily take place.

I’m really hoping that’s not the case this weekend, but it’s not just FFLs who should be a little more vigilant. I don’t think it’s a great idea to leave a firearm in your car overnight anyway, but I’d double check to make sure you’ve brought it inside tonight. Try to avoid downtown areas and protest sites, or at least give yourself enough room and space to quickly leave if you see things starting to get squirrelly. Exercise a little more caution and vigilance than normal, but I don’t think you need to huddle in a bunker.

If the footage is as horrific as the chief indicates, then most of us are going to be on the same side when we see it for themselves. The collective outrage and grief over Tyre Nichols’ death could actually be a unifying moment for much of the country… at least outside of those who’ll exploit his death as an excuse to try to burn it all down.


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