Arming for the revolution: 'Patriot' groups imagine themselves saving us all from tyranny

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Listen closely. That sound you hear is the sound of a cultural paranoia by people who have lost their grip on the reins of power, and on reality and who fear the worst is coming. And they are preparing for it, whatever it may be -- war, revolution, apocalypse.

These extremists make sensible, reasonable gun control hard to discuss, let alone achieve in this country, because they skew the conversations away from common-sense solutions on which both rational gun owners and non-gun owners can agree.

These people, a vocal minority, have extreme fears -- gun confiscation, widespread civil instability, a tyrannical government -- from which they are preparing to defend themselves with arsenals of weapons and stockpiles of ammunition.

A collection of conservative groups have declared Jan. 19, the weekend celebrating President Barack Obama's inauguration and Martin Luther King's Birthday, as Gun Appreciation Day. In a press release, event chairman Larry Ward, said, "The Obama administration has shown that it is more than willing to trample the Constitution to impose its dictates upon the American people."

The word "dictates" subtley frames the president as dangerous.

Andrew P. Napolitano, a Fox News analyst, said in a video posted Thursday on the network's GretaWire blog: "Here's the dirty little secret about the Second Amendment, the Second Amendment was not written in order to protect your right to shoot deer, it was written to protect your right to shoot tyrants if they take over the government. How about chewing on that one."

Who are Mr. Napolitano's tyrants? Is this government takeover theoretical, imminent, in progress or a fait accompli?

Mr. Ward went so far as to say on CNN: "I believe that Gun Appreciation Day honors the legacy of Dr. King ... The truth is, I think Martin Luther King would agree with me if he were alive today that if African-Americans had been given the right to keep and bear arms from day one of the country's founding, perhaps slavery might not have been a chapter in our history. And I believe wholeheartedly that it's essential to liberty."

Set aside, if you can, what would most likely be King's horror at the association, and look at that language. Pay particular attention to the suggestion that guns are an essential guard against slavery's resurgence in this country. And who would be the slaves and who the enslavers?

The Southern Poverty Law Center said in a spring 2012 report that there has been a surging number of so-called patriot groups since 2008 when Barack Obama was first elected president.

"The swelling of the Patriot movement since that time has been astounding. From 149 groups in 2008, the number of Patriot organizations skyrocketed to 512 in 2009, shot up again in 2010 to 824, and then, last year, jumped to 1,274."

According to the center, "Generally, Patriot groups define themselves as opposed to the 'New World Order,' engage in groundless conspiracy theorizing, or advocate or adhere to extreme antigovernment doctrines."

The center also points out: "Fears of impending gun control or weapons confiscations, either by the government or international agencies, also run rampant in antigovernment circles. As a result, many antigovernment activists believe that being well armed is a must. The militia movement engages in paramilitary training aimed at protecting citizens from this feared impending government crackdown."

That's why it is both shocking and predictable that James Yeager, the CEO of a Tennessee company that trains civilians in weapons and tactical skills, posted a video online Wednesday (since removed but still viewable at rawstory.com) saying he was going to start killing people if gun control efforts moved forward. He said, and I quote:

"I'm telling you that if that happens, it's going to spark a civil war, and I'll be glad to fire the first shot. I'm not putting up with it. You shouldn't put up with it. And I need all you patriots to start thinking about what you're going to do, load your damn mags, make sure your rifle's clean, pack a backpack with some food in it and get ready to fight."

Again, calling the "patriots" to arms is, I think, no accident.

Chew on that.

opinion_commentary

Charles M. Blow is a columnist for The New York Times.


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