Redstone Arsenal ATF office keeping an eye on Oregon standoff

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - First thing is first, the spokesperson we talked to says the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives is not taking point in the standoff in Oregon.

ATF Public Information Officer Michael Knight says they simply have expertise to offer, "ATF is looking at any of these situations from an assistance perspective to the agencies that are on site during this situation."

Some may want to summon the specter of Waco, Texas, a standoff where the ATF did play a big part, but the precedent just doesn't hold for the Oregon standoff right now, as the ATF focuses on backing other agencies.

"It's just the nature of the incident itself," says Knight, "And it depends on the circumstances involved in the surrounding agencies. At this point though, based on the issues at hand, we are there to support any of the agencies upon request."

So what about Huntsville?

Redstone Arsenal houses the ATF's bomb squad training facilities and bomb database. That means the Huntsville facility would come into play if there's a follow-up investigation that involves explosives, but for now, it's just on standby.

Knight elaborates, "At this point, our office out on the west coast is handling the issue. If there's any other request needed, agents from across the country can respond if needed."

Part of the reason the standoff has piqued interest in law enforcement agencies like the ATF is the inclusion of sovereign citizen ideals.

A variety of affiliations showed up to the initial protest in Oregon, and we've seen reshuffling since the armed occupation of a federal building. However, among the numerous groups represented, many of them share sovereign citizen ideologies.

"There's been some historical circumstances with these type of groups that have led law enforcement to be more cautious," says Knight.

"Sovereign citizen" covers a wide range of ideology, but the FBI has warned of them as a domestic terror threat since at least 2010.

A few years ago, an exercise at the ATF bomb training facility on Redstone Arsenal focused around a sovereign citizen terror campaign.

Again, it's not everyone who would claim the name, but as Knight notes, "There's a certain segment of the group that believes a lot of anti-government perspectives."

We've seen violence against police, like the execution of two Las Vegas officers and a civilian in 2014. The shooters there claimed revolution and affiliation with sovereign citizen ideals.

But again, it's important to remember what Knight says, "In itself, just the ideology doesn't provide any legal circumstances, but when they're involving firearms or explosives or any other criminal act, that's when law enforcement has to provide the assistance to make sure that the public is safe."

That's part of the reason armed occupation in Oregon is being treated with such caution.

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