Well-Armed Patriot Movement American Insurgents

If gun ownership is down but gun sales are not, who is purchasing all the firearms? On the television program VICE, which airs global news documentaries, a recent segment on 3/20/15, “We the People” by Gianna Tobni, explored the growing number of Americans joining Patriot groups, taking up arms and patrolling U.S. borders. The Patriot movement did not get much hype until President Obama was elected, then membership skyrocketed from 800 groups to 1,300 with a membership of around 25,000, according to them, membership continues to expand. These insurgents feel misrepresented by the mainstream media and hold an assumption that there is an erosion of Second Amendment rights, plus an expansion of presidential powers. Their intent is to create a well-armed citizens’ militia to be prepared against what they view as the tyrannical government.

Mark Potok, founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, has been tracking these groups for years and is seeing a large demographic change. Potok says we ignore the American radical right at our peril. The most recent incident occurred in 2014 when rancher Cliven Bundy, who has been illegally grazing cattle on federal land for 20 years without paying the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), as other ranchers have done, was cited $1 million in fees and penalties. A large group of well-armed individuals blocked the roads and freeways causing BLM agents to back off. We are experiencing a period of extremism. Multiple armed groups of people have led to other violent events: the shooting at the Sikh Mosque in Oak Creek, WI was followed by eight attacks on American mosques. There was also an attack on a Courthouse in Atlanta, Georgia. Jerad and Amanda Miller, who spent time with the Bundy militia, later killed two police officers in Las Vegas before they committed suicide. These insurgent militia groups see immigration as an invasion and falsely believe ISIS is coming across the US border. Such groups incite people to take up violence in the name of their cause.

Toni Wellen is the chair of the Santa Barbara Coalition Against Gun Violence. She lives in Carpinteria.