When it comes to propelling a lead projectile into a fleshy mass, America’s fascination knows no bounds.

That’s why two weeks before the prairie east of town exploded in gunfire, the Waco Convention Center hosted a gun show. A few thousand people perused all the ways to pierce a fleshy mass with the pull of a trigger finger.

Knives were on display, too, but we know it’s not knives that get Americans hot. After all, knives can be used to butter bread and peel fruit. Guns were invented expressly for matters of flesh. (Yes, they can be used on tin cans. But you and I know the founders’ original intent.)

Since there was a gun show in Waco, it’s likely that some of Vernon Howell’s peaceful flock came to town for some last-minute shopping — a semiautomatic here, a hellfire switch there. I trust the gun merchants weren’t accepting food stamps.

That’s a troubling thought — that Waco’s Convention Center, financed with your tax dollars and mine, might have helped Vernon Howell compile his end-of-the-world arsenal.

As a taxpayer, I don’t think I owe Vernon Howell or anyone else — except for police — a venue to explore ways to propel lead into fleshy masses.

I realize that someone will say gun shows are good for the economy. I’ll even grant it. Of course, the same could have been said for the events surrounding the 90-plus deaths at Mount Carmel, some of those victims now strewn among the ammunition and jim-dandy firearms. See how the hotels, motels and restaurants filled up. Ninety-plus deaths? Good for the economy. An annual event, maybe?

In Houston, where Vernon Howell was a regular gun-show customer, the director of the civic center has urged a ban from city property of gun shows that are open to the general public.

Buying up guns

Other cities around the country have been cracking down on gun shows, for a variety of reasons including the potential for accidents.

It seems that a city’s policy should be to minimize the guns circulating in its midst, not giving the gun industry a taxpayer-financed launching pad.

Waco also should do something that other cities have tried. It should offer to buy guns — and destroy them. Fort Worth is in its third week of such a program. Offering up to $25 for an operative firearm, it has bought 96 guns. Some will be used by police. Some will be destroyed.

One sadly ironic twist to the Killeen massacre was the fact that gunman George Hennard, unemployed and hard up for cash, had tried to sell his Glock 17 and his Ruger P-89 two weeks earlier.

Recently the NBA Denver Nuggets, in a promotion called “Operation Ceasefire,” offered a pair of tickets to a game with the red-hot Phoenix Suns in exchange for a gun turned in to any of four area churches.

1 gun worth the price

“Twelve kids die every day from gunshot wounds in this country,” said Nuggets President Tim Lewike. “If we get one gun, it’s been successful.” The Nuggets got 47.

Instead of a gun show, next year around the anniversary of the Mount Carmel disaster, Waco could take all the guns it bought back from the public and confiscated from criminals, and make a pile. Maybe the Texas Rangers could contribute the hundreds found at Mount Carmel. Stack them to the sky. Douse them in kerosene and light a match, while children rejoice around the pyre.

Meanwhile, bad news for gun nuts who pined for the fifth annual Hill Country Machine Gun Shoot’n’Show on Memorial Day near Helotes—lots of fun using high-powered machine guns to drill used cars, oil drums and large kitchen appliances. The folks in Helotes, afraid that one of them would catch a stray round, told the happy-go-lucky machine gunners to get out of town.

Hey, but what about the local economy?

John Young’s column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.

Read the Tribune-Herald's 7-part investigative series on the inner workings of the Branch Davidians. Hours after Part 2 appeared in print, the ATF raided the group's compound.

Read the Tribune-Herald’s account of the ATF raid on the Branch Davidian compound on Feb. 28, 1993. Four ATF agents and six in the compound were killed in the gunfight.

Read the daily news accounts of the 51-day siege at the Branch Davidian compound near Elk, which began Feb. 28 and lasted until April.

April 19 and beyond: FBI agents began inserting canisters of tear gas into the Branch Davidian compound in the early morning hours. By noon, it was on fire.

Federal officials left the compound site in late May 1993. As identifications of bodies continued, questions about the survivors, the compound and the cult itself began to emerge.

As the world began to take a critical look back at the events and legal proceedings continue, the ATF's bombshell report forces a shakeup at the top after the raid gone "tragically wrong."

In 1994, the surviving Davidians went on trial in San Antonio. Over six weeks, more than 140 witnesses testified, with the verdict coming just two days prior to the anniversary of the ATF raid.

The Rodenville shootout and the 1988 trial, the end of the world in 1959 and more stories from deep in the Trib archives.