When Christian Michael Mackey drove to a parking lot in Grand Prairie to allegedly sell an AM-15 rifle on Jan. 29, he didn’t care that the person buying the firearm was a self-proclaimed felon. What Mackey wanted to know was whether the buyer was “based,” meaning a fellow traveler of the white nationalist movement.
The buyer was a paid source for the FBI, the Department of Justice said in a press release on Monday. Agents arrested Mackey and charged him with the unlawful sale of a firearm. He appeared in court on Monday, and his detention hearing is set for Wednesday.
The criminal complaint says Mackey regularly incited others on online forums affiliated with Iron Youth, a neo-Nazi group that urges political violence to hasten the collapse of the U.S. On Instagram, he allegedly said he liked “controlling and killing,” urged his fellow neo-Nazis to kill Black people and Jews, and described himself as a “radical Jew slayer.”
In one post, an Instagram account controlled by Mackey reportedly boasted that militant white nationalists were “becoming a threat to the system and they know it.”
The account called for more “shooting and training, as well as off-the-grid activities. … We can recruit enough people to cause a collapse.”
In the DOJ press release, Acting U.S. Attorney Prerak Shah said “adherence to a repugnant ideology is not a crime in and of itself,” but stressed that “unlawful sale is — and we are determined to hold Mr. Mackey accountable.”
If convicted, Mackey could face up to 10 years in federal prison and would be barred from ever owning a firearm.
Mackey's problems started in December when the Iron Youth member unknowingly met with the undercover FBI agent and said he’d like to sell his rifle. Mackey allegedly wanted the money to buy another gun. He explained that a fellow Iron Youth follower had advised him to make a “homemade pistol without a serial number,” the complaint notes. But Mackey later told the undercover agent he’d rather “purchase a traditional rifle.”
In a recorded conversation with the FBI source, Mackey allegedly said he was “willing to do whatever it takes” to defend the white nationalist movement, according to the complaint.
When the pair later met again, the undercover agent offered to arrange a sell for Mackey. The agent warned that the buyer was a convicted felon, but Mackey allegedly said he “could care less.”
The deal finally went down on Jan. 29. Mackey met the supposed buyer at a parking lot near a gas station in Grand Prairie and said he was ready to sell the piece for $800. Money exchanged hands, the weapon was handed off and Mackey later wound up in handcuffs.
“The FBI’s investigative focus is on criminal activity, regardless of group affiliation,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Matthew J. DeSarno said in Monday’s release. DeSarno said Mackey's "disregard for the law … could have put lives at risk."
Former FBI special agent Mike German, who infiltrated a neo-Nazi group in the early '90s, said federal authorities often target white nationalist groups with gun-related charges.
"Illegal gun trafficking is one type of activity far-right militants have been engaging in for decades," he told the Observer. "It doesn't surprise me that the activity is continuing."
But German worries that law enforcement still hasn't adequately clamped down on the more common forms of public violence carried out by far-right groups, such as attacks that take place during rallies. "There's plenty of active violence these groups engage in that doesn't get police attention," he said.
The feds took a similar tack on Monday in San Antonio, where a criminal complaint was filed against another Iron Youth member for a gun-related charge.
That complaint accuses Caleb Nathaniel Oliver, 19, of illegally possessing a machine gun, according to a separate DOJ news release.
Oliver had met with an undercover federal officer several times since September. On Friday, the FBI arrested Oliver after he bought a fully automatic machine gun from the officer for $1,000.
Like Mackey, Oliver faces up to 10 years in federal prison. He’s in federal custody, and his detention hearing is scheduled to take place before U.S. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth S. Chestney in San Antonio later this week.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) watchdog, Texas was home to at least 54 hate groups in 2020. That tally includes groups for their alleged homophobia, white nationalism, anti-immigration stances and “general hate,” among other designations. Conservative groups regularly dismiss the SPLC’s hate group lists as biased.
The SPLC says at least four neo-Nazi hate groups are active in Texas. One of those is known as Atomwaffen Division, a violent national socialist network with members spread across several continents.
As with Atomwaffen Division, Iron Youth follows the teachings of James Mason, a neo-Nazi ideologue who wrote an obscure book titled Siege. A Bible among militant neo-Nazis, the loosely organized texts that make up Siege advocate widespread anti-government violence. The goal? To spark a race war.
Leading up to and during Donald Trump’s presidency, the white nationalist movement and the broader far-right surged around the country. Throughout Trump's presidency, critics repeatedly accused his administration of not doing enough to clamp down on far-right violence.
On Jan. 6, Trump supporters stormed the U.S Capitol with the hope of stopping the certification of the November 2020 presidential election results. The electoral results were eventually certified, but the Capitol rioters caused widespread damage to the building and several people died. At least 10 North Texans have been arrested in connection with the incident.
Heidi Beirich, co-founder of the Global Extremism watchdog, has researched the far right for decades. She described the Capitol riot as a “miscalculation” on the part of far-right groups.
With Joe Biden now in the Oval Office, Beirich expects that the administration is “looking hard” at radical right-wing groups. But she warns that the Capitol attack brought together several far-right groups that hadn’t previously collaborated, including neo-Nazis, QAnon conspiracy theorists, militias and run-of-the-mill Trump supporters.
“So we now have a more potent anti-democratic movement than before,” she told the Observer. “This will be a force to be reckoned with in coming years. Since so many feel they’ve been wronged and had their election stolen from them, I expect extremist crime to explode.”
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