Probably not, but the death of a firearm-loving YouTube sensation has conspiracy theorists going wild.
On January 3, the producer of popular gun-loving YouTube channel "FPS Russia" was found dead in Georgia at his business. Keith Ratliff, 32, was discovered with a single bullet in the back of his head. Scattered around him were various weapons, some of which he'd modified himself. Some early articles also suggested Ratliff had been tied to a chair at some point before he was murdered and then found on a rural road, but those reports now seem to be false.
So far, the motive behind this execution is unclear. The police recently ruled out a burglary gone wrong, due to the fact that nothing was stolen from the scene, but—of course—with Ratliff’s line of work, there are now a few far-flung theories sending gun forums into a frenzy, and whispers that this was an arms deal that turned sour.
An example of the insane weapons and dodgy Russian accents on FPS Russia.
As the producer and business partner at FPS Russia, Ratliff reportedly provided the channel’s host (the guy with the corny fake Russian accent) with most of the rare, powerful weapons and explosives they demonstrate to their 500 million viewers. Getting hold of weapons like the Golden Desert Eagle, an AA-12 automatic shotgun, and a 40mm machine gun is something Ratliff prided himself on. Kitty Wandel, a manager at FPS Russia, commented on this a few days ago, saying: “Keith Ratliff has been with the FPS Russia channel for quite some time now, helping us [...] to find almost impossible weapons to use in videos.” Ratliff managed to get most of these “almost impossible weapons” using his Federal Firearms License (FFL).
Now, if we look at various videos on the FPS Russia channel—the firing of an explosive crossbow; the assembly of a DRD Paratus-18, which is an assassin-type “suitcase machine gun;” and even the unloading of a rocket launcher—it’s fair to presume that Ratliff obtained these weapons with his “type 10” FFL connections. This type 10 license allows the owner to “manufacture firearms, ammunition, ammunition components, destructive devices, ammunition for destructive devices, and armor piercing ammunition.” It also permits the owner to deal in all the aforementioned items. The money to be made with one of these licenses is incredible if you have the right kind of connections—someone with a type 11 license, for example.
David W Dyson.
I spoke to David W Dyson, firearms consultant and barrister, about the type 11 FFL and FPS Russia’s extensive arsenal of weapons. He told me:
“Regarding the way in which FPS Russia got hold of the weapons, we know that someone with a type 11 FFL could import them.”
The type 11 allows the import of almost any weapon in the US. With these two connections combined, you can effectively set yourself up as an arms dealer who can import a weapon once and then reproduce or modify it to sell on a large scale. Modifying and designing guns was one of Ratliff’s specialities.
“If someone with a type 11 FFL imported the items [FPS Russia’s guns], and if Ratliff had a type 10 FFL, he could simply buy them from the importer,” says Dyson. “Any supplier trading with the US could be a potential source of the weapons. There seems to be quite a few guns that could have originated in the former Soviet Union, but I think a lot could be US produced.”
There is no specific evidence that Keith Ratliff or FPS Russia are involved in any kind of arms dealing—something I did try to contact them about—but considering the way Keith was killed and his very public connection to guns, it’s a clear possibility that can’t be ignored.
Ratliff was also unhappy about the amount of paperwork you have to get through to own a military assault weapon in America. Speaking on a YouTube video titled “Obama Vows to Ban All Magazine Fed Weapons,” he rants on about how it should be illegal for some people to have guns and not others.
Kyle Lamar Myers, AKA Dmitri Potapoff, host of FPS Russia.
“When our forefathers were around, all arms were military arms. Yet, for you and I to possess military arms, you’ve got to have a stack of paperwork,” he says, sat in front of a desk full of ammunition belts and high powered rifles. “You’ve got to be a business. You’ve got to have a federal firearms license. You’ve got to have a retail stamp. You’ve got to have a special occupations stamp. You have to have the type 10 or 7 manufacturing stamp. You got to have all that paperwork just to get started. That limits who can own true military assault arms. I can own them. Most of you can’t. That should be illegal. Every one of you should be able to own an assault weapon of your choice because that’s what the Second Amendment is about.”
A more chilling and ridiculous motive being circulated by conspiracy theorists on sites like Above Top Secret and gunconfiscation.com is the idea that Ratliff was targeted by some kind of clandestine assault against the pro-gun movement.
It’s far-fetched, but with the powder keg that Obama’s gun control proposals have stirred up recently (not to mention Alex Jones’ CNN meltdown), it seems feasible to conspiracy nuts that FPS Russia would be high on the hit list if some violent anti-gun movement was in operation.
FPS Russia has over three million subscribers on YouTube, and with over 500 million views of their rampantly pro-firearm and pro-explosives content, they are among the top ten YouTube channels in the world. However, the reason they're such key players among the pro-gun movement isn't just this huge YouTube following, but because they’re getting the message across to a younger generation who might be more susceptible to the put-the-guns-down policies of “those crazy liberals.” Basically, if you’re a teenager who’s into games like Call of Duty and Halo and you see guys firing insane, otherworldly guns at explosive zombie mannequins, you’re going to be into it whether you care about the politics behind gun control or not.
With that in mind, I guess it’s easy to see why a group of insurrectional anti-gun activists who don’t actually exist might put a bullet in Ratliff’s head.
Some conspiracy theorists are even suggesting that the US government is behind a culling of pro-gun leaders to make it easier for the dreaded Illuminati to implement martial law after the inevitable passing of gun control laws. They cite the “mysterious” car crash of John Noveske (which is only "mysterious" because they've added the word mysterious), owner of gun company Noveske Rifleworks, earlier this year as yet another gun giant slain in this supposed war. They’re suggesting that some kind of government death squad has been ordered to seek out high profile gun advocates in a bid to terminate their influence on the community and, in the process, scare the life out of anyone further promoting gun use on a large scale.
Bullshit or not, what these theories do add to the real world is proof that the hysteria surrounding gun control is growing louder with every new report about firearms and the people who use them. It's difficult to see how that is going to help us have the calm, rational debate we need to have with ourselves about gun control.
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