The biker brawl in Waco, Tx., that left nine dead and 18 injured on Sunday served as a reminder that motorcycle gangs remain a force, what the Wall Street Journal calls “an outlaw subculture steeped in its own mythology.” The Justice Department estimates there are still more than 300 outlaw U.S. motorcycle gangs. One gang in the Texas melee, the Bandidos, is among the largest, along with the Hells Angels. Each has more than 90 chapters and 800 members in the U.S. “These guys have never gone away. I'm shocked that people are shocked that this happened,” said agent Carlos Canino of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Los Angeles, who investigated the Hells Angels in the early 2000s.
“They pride themselves on living outside of society's norms. They pride themselves on adhering to their own rules. And the currency of that subculture is violence,” Canino said. Outlaw gangs are particularly active in the mid-Atlantic, southwest and northwest U.S., where they are still considered a “significant threat” by law enforcement, said a 2013 report by the federal National Gang Intelligence Center. But despite Sunday's clash at the Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco, which escalated from brass knuckles and knives into a deadly gunfight, only a small percentage of motorcycle clubs are considered outlaw gangs that engage in criminal conduct.