SWAT team raids orchid grower for fudging import paperwork

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61 Responses to “SWAT team raids orchid grower for fudging import paperwork”

  1. Legless_Marine says:

    “Thanks for lumping all americans in the entire country into one small category,”

    That “Small category” showed itself to be not-so-small with the re-election of GWB.

    Previous to that, America may have been eligible for the benefit of the doubt…

    That ship has sailed, however.

    Enjoy your new nation.

  2. grimc says:

    Six FWS agents wearing body armor and carrying sidearms to make an arrest and execute a search warrant qualifies as a “SWAT team”?

  3. Anonymous says:

    I’m distinctly reminded of the ambiguous 27b/6 form from Brazil.

  4. holtt says:

    Mod Siamang up as it were.

    Mark, I very much agree that when it comes to news and social commentary, BB should educate, not perpetuate. Jerking knees are jerking knees whether the right, left or center. Wait. Remove “center”, let’s just say right or left.

  5. Talia says:

    So you’re still desparaging half a country of millions and millions of people just to be hateful?

    Nice!

    I had thought the BB crowd was above common internet trolls but apparently not. Clearly you’re not interested in rational discourse, only pissing people off. Run along now, little boy, and leave the adults be.

  6. obdan says:

    and, where was Chuck Norris when this was going down?

  7. Anonymous says:

    @Oskar Yes fish and wildlife does have a forensics lab. Not the garbage you see on CSI but yes. http://www.lab.fws.gov/

  8. efalk says:

    Sadly, I have to agree with Legless. We — the collective “we” that is America — did in fact vote GWB into office the second time, and we did stand by like sheep while he shredded the constitution.

    That said, it sounds like this Arias Silva guy totally deserved to be arrested and totally deserves to be sitting in jail.

    And I think the term “swat team” is probably being used any time a search warrant is served by armed police. Was it really a swat team?

  9. Anonymous says:

    I know both Mr. Norris from Texas, and Mrs. Pollenatrix from Germany. The incredible punishment George Norris received did not come near to fitting his diminutive crime. What isn’t stated in this article is that Mr. Norris lost his home due to his legal bills, as well as two of his remaining years. The U.S. implementation of CITES should be made to favor importing of all plant species, as we now have the technology for artificial propagation. This means that if we discover a new species or a rare one that CITES permits should immediately be issued for breeding and propagation, otherwise it drives up blackmarket prices for plants to be wild-collected and truly become extinct. It is truly a self-fulfilling prophecy when you prevent species from being propagated for fear of extinction. Roddy Gabel, the head of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services at the time of this incident, should be ashamed of himself.

  10. zota says:

    This needs to be clarified in the text of this post. The Washington Times’ is not “reporting” anything. This is a personal commentary by the author, filed under Opinion. And for something to be classed as “opinion” at the Washington Times means it has fallen under a very low bar indeed.

    As further misdirection, imagine my surprise when I clicked over to read the comments on what I assumed was a sourced news article “for more context to the story” only to find a thread of far-right cries for government overthrow.

  11. jfrancis says:

    @ 23 re: jerking the center knee

    Too late, now. You brought it up.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I have some direct knowledge of this case; I actually know George. The guy was breaking federal laws- in this case, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the same laws under which elephant tusk, rhino horn, lion gonads, whatever the heck people want to grind into some mystic Chinese powder. Plants are covered under this convention as well.

    In George’s case, his buddy was intentionally mislabeling the species that are under CITES Appendix I (highly protected species), and importing them as Appendix II (threatened species). All orchids are at LEAST Appendix II; a few are protected under Appendix I, and those are darned near impossible to import.

    So, the guy starts by breaking the law, right out of the gate- and when his comrade was arrested, they mortgaged their house to bail him out. He then skipped bail, sticking them with a huge debt.

    As for the FWS “stormtroopers,” of course they’re going to wear body armor and carry pistols when they arrest the guy. I don’t like the fact that he wasn’t treated all that well, but he was breaking the law- pretty hefty international treaty stuff- and he pretty much got what he deserved. That the plants aren’t “charismatic megafauna” like rhinos or sea turtles or whatever shouldn’t weigh into it quite so much as the fact that the guy was breaking heavy-duty laws, knowing precisely what he was doing at the time. Now he’s making himself out to be a pariah.

    George is a good guy. He really is. I’ve known him for several years, and he ran a good business. Unfortunately, he chose to break some laws, and from this he’s being penalized. Really, it’s his own stew.

  13. jitter12 says:

    @25, apparently Chuck was running for president at the time. http://www.wnd.com/index.php?pageId=91103

  14. tweaked says:

    “Read the comments for more context to the story. There seems to me more going on here that the The Washington Times’ is reporting.”

    Don’t you mean ‘there seems to be more going on here than the Washington Times is reporting?

    Anyway, aside from this the politics of this citation are a very interesting case. In the first place we have the loony right-wing Times offering a critical opinion about the overreaching of law enforcement – talk about playing against type. (I’d note here pace Siamang’s point that while this is an opinion piece they are nevertheless reporting the details of an incident in the course of said piece.) The point of the Times piece is clear though when you read it: they want to criticize law enforcement for targeting elderly (white) people, and to complain about ‘overcriminalization’ (which apparently means all criminal activity that’s not totally obvious and stereotypical – bizarre that a paper which is usually hawkish on drugs is complaining that people are being prosecuted for flaunting Customs regs!). Also, the author appears to be upset that (those God-dang) Liberals are too busy complaining about the plight of ethnic people to complain about this orchid smuggler. I suppose this is what happens when your paper is owned by the Moonies, though.

    What’s equally interesting is the way that this passage is cited, first by ‘the Agitator’ and then here at BB. ‘The Agitator,’ for those who bother to check it out, is run by one Radley Balko, a writer interested in the “overuse of SWAT teams and police militarization,” who has published at venues ranging from Foxnews.com to Playboy and the WSJ. So clearly he sees this story as an opportunity to push his pet story, and runs a long citation of it on his blog with the lede “So as it turns out, even the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has its own SWAT team.” (The link being on the text ‘has its own SWAT team.’) Of course, when you RTFA, you notice both that these were just FWS agents “in SWAT gear” (an awfully vague description, we may note with GRIMC above), and then that obviously inflammatory quote about Libyans. Now anyone reading that passage is immediately going to be skeptical about the source. ‘The Agitator’ responds by redacting the line about the Libyans and replacing it, not with an ellipsis, but with two periods at the end of the sentence – a tricky maneuver that could be mistaken as a typo, but which one could still convincingly portray as an honest error. Then he links the story without explicit reference to the fact that it comes from the Times.

    BB, thankfully, includes the source in their post, and simply ends the citation before the troubling remark about Libyans. But nevertheless it seems the effect is to appropriate an obviously questionable article in support of one’s own political agenda, even as said agenda is wholly opposed to the writer of the original piece.

    Do I have a point here? Probably not, but certainly it’s a lesson in why you should never take a citation at face value.

  15. atman says:

    #17 talia: while I too found the dose of schadenfreude a big repugnant, I’m not sure it justifies threatening to grovel at the ‘feet’ of someone self-identified as legless.

  16. Phikus says:

    Talia: You’re my hero!

    Efalk@~26: Clearly you haven’t been paying attention if you think that w gained either of those elections legally / fairly.

    Atman@~31: Maybe I should change my handle to COMPLETE INVALID so people will lay down and accept any repugnance I care to spew without question.

  17. Anonymous says:

    having worked with them for well over a decade, I suspect that the USFWS made many peaceable attempts to inspect the property before bringing in the SWAT gear. Typically (or at least with the ones I’ve worked for) Federal agencies have to show that they’ve attempted to contact/have discourse with alleged violators before taking an enforcement action of that nature.

  18. IronEdithKidd says:

    Efalk: Speak for yourself. I voted against GW 3 times (once in a primary). The fact remains that nearly 50% of the +/-30% of us that vote didn’t vote for GW. (Remember the Bush 1% doctrine?)

    Talia: Please do not feed the troll. How many countries have marines among their armed forces, anyway? The US and who else?

    As for the overzeolous enforcement of the law…maybe a little indignant outrage is called for sometimes. This isn’t one of those times. I’m just positing that blind application of the letter of the law is maybe not in the best interest of the United States. If everyone’s a criminal, who will be left to pay income and property tax to support all the prisons?

  19. Anonymous says:

    Here’s the Google Documents link to the court case against George:

    http://docs.google.com/gview?a=v&q=cache:tHYtrWbL_DUJ:caselaw.findlaw.com/data2/circs/11th/0415487p.pdf+%22George+Norris%22+phragmipedium&hl=en&gl=us&sig=AFQjCNESJ2cneIteYEnpDFkt6Y__SUIzlA

    George was importing phragmipediums; while (as an anonymous poster above noted) it would be nice to freely import these plants and then propagate the heck out of them, that will not prevent people from buying them from Peru, where they will be dug up in order to satiate the needs of orchid growers. Phrags (like other members of the cypripedioideae) can not be routinely cloned, unlike many other orchids. They must be grown from seed (2-5 years minimum to produce flowering-size seedlings), or as divisions (1-3 years)- and, frankly, when someone has a hundred bucks to pay for a dug-up plant that’s thrown in a box and mailed to the US (ICE can’t inspect every package), that means decimation of populations in the range country.

    The plants weren’t legal, period. They’re Appendix I species, and Norris conspired to have plants intentionally mislabeled for import purposes.

  20. holtt says:

    IRONEDITHKIDD – a lot of countries have marines…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marine_%28military%29

  21. Anonymous says:

    Shouldn’t we be giving out more fines for things like this and NOT sending people to jail? Making money rather than blowing it on incarcerating a non-violent criminal just sounds like a better idea to me…

  22. Richard says:

    Here in the UK my other half was given the job of importing smoke detectors. Smoke detectors contain a radioactive source and as such cannot be carried by normal freight companies. If you are buying a smoke detector for less than £100 made outside of the UK (i.e. all of them) then I would bet money that the proper import procedures were not followed.

    The procedures do not make any differentiation between alpha beta and gamma radiation sources though, so they are mad.

  23. Wardish says:

    I find it amazing that nobody caught this.

    “Arias Silva admitted selling several shipments of orchids to George Norris between January 1999 and October 2003. Arias Silva allegedly would obtain a CITES permit for the shipment that authorized the export of a certain numbers of artificially propagated specimens of particular species of orchids.”

    He admitted to selling orchids.
    The rest are allegations. The trial being over either none of those were proved or someone doesn’t know how to use the word allegedly.

    “At the alleged instruction of Norris, Arias Silva would then allegedly include in the shipment specimens of species not included on the CITES permit, which he would falsely label as a species listed on the permit.”

    More allegations. The trial being over either none of those were proved or someone doesn’t know how to use the word allegedly.

    “Arias Silva would then allegedly provide to Norris a code that would provide a means for deciphering the false labels and identify the true species of the orchids. In some instances, Arias Silva allegedly shipped orchids that were collected from the wild rather than artificially propagated. ”

    And last but not least, more allegations.

    Perhaps someone should take a look at the trial documents and find out what was proved instead of what was alleged.

    Anybody ever considered police regulations requiring a use of force in proportion to a reasoned risk assessment?

  24. Powell says:

    Stay classy, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service SWAT.
    I feel safer. Asses.

  25. jwb says:

    It’s so easy for these right-wing sites to troll Mark. Mark, you have posted these kinds of things from the Washington Times and from Reason many times, and it’s usually less than 10 minutes before they are debunked. Remember the ridiculous Reason story about the teenage girl from Texas, kidnapped from before her father’s eyes by masked squads, which of course turned out to be totally false?

    I find it crazy that an Internet personality of your prominence can’t read through these stories.

  26. jfrancis says:

    Heritage Foundation writer writing for the Washington Times? Have to admit it makes me wonder if we are hearing the full story.

  27. Siamang says:

    It’s an opinion piece by a right-winger in the Mooney times, and you RUN it as a news article?

    Then there’s this passage:
    “If only Mr. Norris had been a Libyan terrorist, maybe some European official at least would have weighed in on his behalf to secure a health-based mercy release.”

    Wow, if true as reported, then BOO, bad Big Brother, no cookie. I temper my outrage until story is confirmed as true.

    Also, Mark, you might seek independent confirmation before running this article as if it’s straight reportage.

    Headline should read “Right winger from Heritage foundation upset and claims a secret swat team jackboots little old ladies over orchids.”

  28. William Krul says:

    Here is the rest of the story> Looks like the Times forgot to mention a few “little” details.
    Orchid Smuggler Sentenced to 21 Months in Prison
    MIAMI, Florida, July 28, 2004 (ENS) – A Peruvian orchid smuggler has been sentenced to 21 months in jail with three years supervised release and ordered to pay a fine of $5000 for conspiracy to import the orchids and lying to federal officals about his activities. U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz handed down the sentence in Miami Tuesday.

    Manuel Arias Silva earlier had pleaded guilty to his role in a conspiracy to import into the U.S. protected orchids, including specifically specimens of the genus Phragmipedium, commonly known as Tropical Lady’s Slipper Orchids.

    All species of orchids are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

    Arias Silva admitted selling several shipments of orchids to George Norris between January 1999 and October 2003. Arias Silva allegedly would obtain a CITES permit for the shipment that authorized the export of a certain numbers of artificially propagated specimens of particular species of orchids.

    At the alleged instruction of Norris, Arias Silva would then allegedly include in the shipment specimens of species not included on the CITES permit, which he would falsely label as a species listed on the permit.

    Arias Silva would then allegedly provide to Norris a code that would provide a means for deciphering the false labels and identify the true species of the orchids. In some instances, Arias Silva allegedly shipped orchids that were collected from the wild rather than artificially propagated.

    One shipment in February 2003 allegedly included some 1,145 specimens, of which 490 were of species not authorized for export by the accompanying CITES permit.

    The investigation of this case was led by Special Agents of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, with assistance from the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection Service.

    Norris, Arias Silva’s co-conspirator, is scheduled to be sentenced on September 2.

  29. Anonymous says:

    That’ll teach him to improperly file his paperwork! You get 6 months for filling it out in blue ink instead of black, and if you enter something in lower-case when it specifies upper… well, you really don’t want to know what you get for that.

  30. Anonymous says:

    It seems the judge is unfamiliar with the federal sand state regulations regarding shipment of lemons and making of lemonade.

  31. Teller says:

    Bet he fills out the paperwork next time. Hey, think USFW Swat teams wears black Smokey Bear hats with face shields?

  32. Anonymous says:

    This story is true, and it is a well known one among professional orchid growers and hobbyists alike.

    From the DOJ website:

    “The investigation of this case was led by Special Agents of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, with assistance from the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection Service. The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Southern District of Florida, and the Environmental Crimes Section of the U.S. Department of Justice.”

  33. thatbob says:

    Actually, I am thankful for the strict regulations governing wildlife imports, and I’m not willing to let the libertarian right wing’s procurement of a sympathetic “victim” (lawbreaker) undermine the need of those laws.

    That said, I would like to see the restoration of due process in America, across the board. It shouldn’t take 6 months to learn what crimes you are being charged with.

  34. Anonymous says:

    First they came for the orchids …

  35. joki says:

    Some additional context:

    http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/jul2004/2004-07-28-09.asp#anchor3

    “Arias Silva admitted selling several shipments of orchids to George Norris between January 1999 and October 2003. Arias Silva allegedly would obtain a CITES permit for the shipment that authorized the export of a certain numbers of artificially propagated specimens of particular species of orchids.

    At the alleged instruction of Norris, Arias Silva would then allegedly include in the shipment specimens of species not included on the CITES permit, which he would falsely label as a species listed on the permit.

    Arias Silva would then allegedly provide to Norris a code that would provide a means for deciphering the false labels and identify the true species of the orchids. In some instances, Arias Silva allegedly shipped orchids that were collected from the wild rather than artificially propagated. ”

    I can’t say any of this sounds like it required a SWAT team but, if the allegations are true, it does seem like he was knowingly violating the law. He may have felt that he was only side-stepping unnecessary regulation but it doesn’t seem like an accidental paperwork oversight.

  36. Anonymous says:

    I read about this on a website called overcriminalized (http://www.overcriminalized.com/casestudy/The-Unlikely-Orchid-Smuggler.aspx)

    This was MY favorite bit: Norris reported to the federal prison in Fort Worth on January 10, 2005; was released for a year in December 2006 while the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals considered a challenge to his sentence; and then returned to prison to serve the remainder of his sentence. Prison officials, angered by Norris’s temporary reprieve, threw him in solitary confinement, where he spent a total of 71 days.

    HE SPENT 71 DAYS IN SOLITARY BECAUSE HE DARED TO CHALLENGE HIS SENTENCE! Yeah, I’m so glad all the other crimes have been solved,and they could take on this dangerous flower-grower (who apparently didn’t do anything wrong but misfile some paperwork – paging Coyote blog)

  37. Anonymous says:

    Can we say “a plague on both houses”?

    Invasive species are a huge economic threat. Regulating the trade in exotic plants and animals is a necessary function of the government.

    Enforcing it with SWAT teams, however, is not. Most of those SWAT teams really should be eliminated, and federal agencies that feel they are dealing with someone “ornery” should have to call in help from the FBI.

  38. Tim Howland says:

    Seems like the story may be misrepresented. He was pretty clearly smuggling endangered species into the country, and went so far as to direct his agent to use the Miami airport for delivery, as the customs agents were more lax there. He also had his agent deliberately mis-label the boxes, according to his appeal:

    Here’s the findlaw cite, where they turned down his sentencing appeal: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/data2/circs/11th/0415487p.pdf

    Clearly, sending the swat team after an elderly couple is abhorrent, and 17 months in prison seems like a pretty stiff sentence for a 71 year old man, but presenting him as an innocent victim of a Brazil-like beauracracy is a bit much. He clearly broke the law, and violated some pretty serious environmental treaties in doing so.

  39. holtt says:

    Careful Wardish, look what happened to Siamang

  40. Anonymous says:

    Isn’t this a sub-plot from that movie where Nic Cage is his own twin brother?

  41. Legless_Marine says:

    I always take a certain pleasure in hearing about the draconian treatment of American citizens by it’s government.

    You folks enthusiastically rallied behind “Your president” while he invaded two nations abroad, utterly shattering one of them and sentencing it’s people to perpetual misery. You applauded while your constitution was dimembered for the sake of your own safety.

    You baked the pie… now you get to eat it.

    Mmmmm… Shadenfreude!

  42. Ella Diablo says:

    I personally knew Mr. Norris and he did what he was convicted of -and he deserved what he got. The man is unethical and did the illegal smuggling of CITES Appendix 1 orchids as he pled guilty to. Don’t feel sorry for this scumbag. Yes, there are many examples of our Legal System being out of control and incarcerating vast numbers of citizens, as in the hundreds of thousands made felons created by the ‘War on Drugs, er, Citizens’ for smoking cannabis. But this isn’t one of them – George went to jail for being guilty as charged.

  43. Mark Frauenfelder says:

    Neither story you mention has been debunked, JWB. Why are you making things up?

  44. dent424 says:

    I know this is slightly off topic for the discussion that’s been going on here but I just finished reading a fascinating book on the orchid trade (which covers CITES pretty extensively). It seemed perhaps a bit biased against CITES but it was a fantastic read. I would check it out even if you’re not into orchids (which I’m not) The book’s called “Orchid Fever” by Eric Hansen.

  45. Anonymous says:

    Don’t feel sorry for this guy –

    The reason people have to do all that paperwork is to keep people from wiping out endangered species from their native habitat so that they can then sell them privately, you know, like this guy basically tried to do.

    Also, some species are invasive and can destroy our local ecosystems if they are brought here and aren’t properly quarantined – that’s something that the paperwork informs you of and prevents.

    Honestly, this guy is a real douchebag for possibly destroying our environment while possibly destroying another for his own gain – I don’t care if he’s old or ill.

  46. Legless_Marine says:

    I am reminded of this similar incident:

    http://www.rwfr.cm/swt.htm

  47. grimc says:

    I read about this on a website called overcriminalized

    Oh brother. ‘Hey, let’s get another viewpoint on this op-ed by a Heritage Foundation wingnut…from a website run by the Heritage Foundation!’ Brilliant!

    Gotta admit, though, that it was valuable laying out why the Heritage Foundation is so concerned about this:

    This is the risk that all American entrepreneurs face today. Enormously complex and demanding regulations are regularly paired with draconian criminal penalties for even minor deviations from the rules.

    Regulation = bad! Evil gubmint black helicopters with SWAT teams arresting innocent old people!

  48. steauengeglase says:

    I’ll agree that many of our federal laws are far, far too broad, but so is this article. Would it have been too much for the author to explain why the paperwork was off? Then again I’m probably asking too much of the Washington Times.

    @13, 49% applauded, the other 49% disagreed and the remaining 2% were called, stupid.

  49. Powell says:

    @13 I am glad examples of the erosion of “our” civil liberties is giving you a heaping helping of shadenfreude. The “you” and “your” indicate that you think in collectivsit terms. Not all of “us” dig the police state “we” live in.

  50. Talia says:

    Thanks for lumping all americans in the entire country into one small category, Legless. It’s really appreciated, and clearly shows a great deal of reasonable, rational thought and stunning insight on your part. Truly, you are obviously a genius. I can hardly constrain myself from grovelling at your feet, begging you to forgive me for the awful sin of being American.

  51. Agile Cyborg says:

    Plants are nothing without soldier boys and frowning specie-checkers.

  52. Oskar says:

    Fish and Wildlife has SWAT-teams? Seriously?

    Do the National Parks Service have CSI-teams?

    • FWS doesn’t have SWAT teams. Rather, like most federal agencies, when FWS has to execute an administrative search warrant, it relies on the U.S. Marshal for manpower (and, in some cases, firepower). In my experience, the U.S. Marshal’s office makes the risk assessment that guides the level of force used in such a search.

  53. Anonymous says:

    How arcane is it? Here’s a list of animals and plants you can’t import. Don’t import any animals or plants on this list. Is it on the list? Don’t import it then. Pretty byzantine, all right. Would I rather see the penalty be a big fine? Probably. And a court order to not run any kind of similar business again.

  54. Anonymous says:

    @Legless marine

    I think you’re looking for the fox news comment section. Here ya go.

    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,77538,00.html

  55. Anonymous says:

    Smuggling in endangered species is not just a matter of ‘paperwork being off’. People might feel differently if the orchids were endangered parrots stuffed into the hollowed out gas tank of a car crossing the border. Just because this guy was old, clever, and smuggling plants doesn’t make it any better. I don’t think being old and sickly should be a get out of jail free card. If it’s worthwhile to do the crime, you can do the time.

  56. Daneel says:

    If only he’d got Seminoles to collect the orchids for him…

  57. Siamang says:

    “Thr sms t m mr gng n hr tht th Th Wshngtn Tms’ s rprtng. ”

    Thnks, Mrk.

    Bt s n nfrmd cnsmr f nws, y shld b wr f/mk yr rdrs wr f ths dstnctn:

    Th Wshngtn Tms WSN’T rprtng ths.

    Ths ws n pnn rtcl, nt nws rprt.

    Lrn t tll th dffrnc, nd TCH PPL t b bl t tll th dffrnc.

    f ppl cn’t vn tll th dffrnc btwn nws nd pnn, n n rtcl tht s clrly lbld “pnn Cmmntry”, thn thr’s sm rlly crcl “rdng th nws 101″ tht nds t hppn.

    Sk t b clr. Nt tht thr’s n plc fr pnn r nlyss. Bt t hlps t nt blr tht ln by sng fct-ssrtng hdln, “Swt tm rds rchd grwr fr mprprly fllng t mprt pprwrk” fr n pnn pc nttld “Crmnlzng vryn Ndd: ‘cln ln’ t dtrmn lwflnss.” Y mrphd n pnn, tht th Wshngtn Tms dtrl pg ddn’t vn lbl fct, nt smthng ssrtd s fct.

    t’s xctly ths ‘tlphn gm’ tht css pnn t mrph nt rbn lgnd t mrph nt ccptd trth wthn th pblc cnscsnss.

  58. Anonymous says:

    As a side observation, using a SWAT team for so many arrests in the U.S. and the ubiquitous presence of para-military police throughout America, not to mention in movies and TV programming should make one wonder as to how militant American society has become.

    Take a look at some place like South Korea, a place that experienced a traumatic war and is still technically at war with the North. Though all men there are required to serve a military obligation, South Korean society is very much a laid-back civilian society and without handguns and with few SWAT teams as well. The contrast between such a place and the U.S. is notable and it really gives pause to wonder just what the differences are in the U.S. and elsewhere.

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