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Tea Party's After-Party: More Extremism as Gun Rights Activists Hit Washington

5 years ago
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On Thursday, thousands of Tea Partiers marked Tax Day by trekking to Washington to protest. It was the usual stuff. The TPers complained about taxes. They carried signs showing Nancy Pelosi in a toilet. They compared the media -- except for Fox News -- to Pravda. One placard depicted President Barack Obama as a vampire sucking blood out of the Statue of Liberty. Another made this cogent argument: "Having Gov't Manage Your Healthcare Is Like Having Michael Vick Watch Your Dog." One sign was blunt: "Go Back To Kenya."

"Saturday Night Live" has-been Victoria Jackson led the crowd in a song, "There's a Communist Living in the White House." Sticking to that theme, one Tea Partier held up a sign depicting Sen. Joseph McCarthy next to Obama with one word on it: "Vindicated." And Tea Partiers, while expressing their outrage and anger, fretted that their rally was being infiltrated by outside provocateurs trying to make them look like a bunch of racist nuts.

In other words, same old same old. But the extremism of the Tea Partiers will be far eclipsed on Monday when another band of American patriots rides into town to demonstrate against the government.

On April 19, an assortment of gun-rights groups will mount the Second Amendment March at the grounds of the Washington Monument. On the Web site for the march, its founder, Skip Coryell, calls it a "peaceful" event. But these folks, as the Violence Policy Center points out in a new report, are pushing a virulent strain of anti-government extremism that certainly could drive a body to take violent action.

Last month in an article for Human Events, a conservative magazine, Coryell noted that one aim of the march is to imply the threat of violence:
My question to everyone reading this article is this: "For you, as an individual, when do you draw your saber? When do you say "Yes, I am willing to rise up and overthrow an oppressive, totalitarian government?"

Is it when the government takes away your private business?
Is it when the government rigs elections?
Is it when the government imposes martial law?
Is it when the government takes away your firearms?

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not advocating the immediate use of force against the government. It isn't time, and hopefully that time will never come. But one thing is certain: "Now is the time to rattle your sabers." If not now, then when?

... I understand that sounds harsh, but these are harsh times. ...

I hear the clank of metal on metal getting closer, but that's not enough. The politicians have to hear it too. They have to hear it, and they have to believe it.

Come and support me at the Second Amendment March on April 19th on the Washington Monument grounds. Let's rattle some sabers and show the government we're still here.
Notice that Coryell says he's not advocating the immediate use of force against the government. That sure makes it sound like he's revving up the gun-rights troops for possible rebellion down the road.

At the march, he will be in good company. One scheduled speaker for the rally is Larry Pratt, the executive director of Gun Owners of America. In 1992, Pratt participated in a Colorado meeting of neo-Nazis and self-proclaimed Christian patriots that marked the birth of the modern militia movement. Another speaker at this pro-gun hoe-down will be Sheriff Richard Mack, who states on his Web site that the "greatest threat we face today is not terrorists; it is our own federal government. If America is conquered or ruined it will be from within, not a foreign enemy."

And the Oath Keepers are sponsoring the march. This is a group of right-wingers -- many of whom serve in the military or police forces -- who pledge to disobey what they regard as "unconstitutional" orders from an increasingly repressive government. Their view of the government is rather dark. They vow not to "obey any order to blockade American cities, thus turning them into giant concentration camps" and not to "obey any order to force American citizens into any form of detention camps." As if the Obama administration is on the verge of declaring martial law and rounding up the citizenry.

Put this all together -- saber rattlng, militia fomenting, demonizing government -- and you have a brew of far-right paranoia mixed with guns. When have we seen this before? Oh yeah, Timothy McVeigh and the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. And here's the kicker: This pro-gun march will happen on the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma bombing. This is not insensitivity; it's a message.

Though it is not officially sponsoring the march, the National Rifle Association, the big shot of the gun lobby, has been promoting the event -- and, thus, helping to spread this over-the-top anti-government sentiment. As the Violence Policy Center notes,
The gun lobby is once again embracing -- and equally important, validating -- the anti-government rhetoric being offered by activists that range from Tea Party members, through pro-gun advocates, to members of the militia movement.

And as was the case with Timothy McVeigh, the risk lies not so much with the organized members of these groups, but with the "lone wolves" who not only embrace their rhetoric, but are willing to act on it with violence.
That's right. When people are blasting the federal government as tyrannical, suggesting that government-imposed concentration camps are around the corner, encouraging people to threaten the government with force, or comparing the president to the Nazis and accusing him of being a secret Kenyan-born Muslim imposing socialism on the United States, they are setting the stage for violence. The Tea Partiers are extreme in their hatred of the Obama administration, but these gun-rights radicals are downright dangerous. They talk of insurrection -- and they do have guns.

You can follow David Corn's posts and media appearances via Twitter.

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