President-elect Barack Obama's election has spurred a surge in gun sales, firearms retailers and enthusiasts say, as gun owners brace for what they believe will be a new era of gun control in Washington.
An electronic news service that covers outdoor news has even named Obama its "Gun Salesman of the Year."
Firearms associations began to suspect that political considerations were driving gun sales late last year as the number of background checks increased. But end-of-year figures showed a big spike in background checks for the last three months of 2008, and in November, the month Obama was elected, the number of background checks was 42 percent greater than in November 2007.
On the surface, this seems to be just about guns. But it runs much deeper than that -- and darker.
The fear being whipped up by the NRA and the gun fanatics has no known basis in reality. In the list of thirteen priorities for action in Obama's first year and beyond (see the New York Times on this), jobs and the economy completely predominate. Gun control not only is not on the list, there hasn't even been a whisper of it from the Obama team this year.
Yet that hasn't diminished the paranoia of the gun-love set (I'm afraid nothing is capable of that, actually), and that includes their shills inside the world of mainstream Conservatism. This week at the hearings for Attorney General nominee Eric Holder, one of the voices testifying against his confirmation was Stephen Halbrook, who also happens to have authored a recent book about the Second Amendment that's being promoted (via "book bomb") by such folks as Richard Viguerie, from whom we recently received an e-mail urging us to buy it.
What has the gun nuts already worked up about Holder, by the way, is his position supporting the gun ban in D.C., as well as an op-ed piece he wrote in October 2001 for the Washington Post titled "Keeping Guns Away From Terrorists." If you read it, it's only an eminently sensible piece about closing up gun-sales loopholes because in fact many terrorists use them to obtain weapons. Evidently, the "War on Terror" for Conservatives means sacrificing all other kinds of rights -- like the right not to be wiretapped, or the right not to be tortured -- but by Gawd, the gummint is gonna hafta pry the right to sell any weapon they like under the table at gun shows from their cold, dead fingers.
These fears are becoming widespread on the ground, particularly in the rural areas where gun rights have been a favorite bugaboo since the days of gas-station attendants and Beaver Cleaver. I know about this somewhat from personal experience; the fear that "Obama is gonna take our guns away" is certainly commonplace when I spend time in the rural West. But you can hear it bubbling up in a Washington Post piece about rural dwellers' mistrust of Obama:
"That comment he made about guns and religion, it's frightening, you have to admit," says the secretary at his accountant's office.
Loewer agrees. "I don't believe in going around with a gun strapped to your hip, Wild West-style," he says. "But you ought to be able to protect yourself."
... Near the refrigerated cases, a petite woman holding an inventory scanner greets him. She's wearing a name tag that says "Audrey Loewer, general manager, serving you since 1972."
Obama did not get her vote, either. "I don't know what will happen to people around here if he puts restrictions on guns," Audrey says. "Me and Wayne, we're lucky, we have jobs. With the tight economy, there's gonna be more thefts.
"You see people come in here, you can watch how they buy. They fill up two or three baskets when the check comes in at the first of the month. Then they'll come in at the end of the month and you see Vienna sausages and Spam in their cart. They'll load up on bread."
Those are the sentiments among more mainstream members of the Conservative set. Travel a little farther out to the fringes of right-wing thought, and it becomes virulent and potentially violent.
On those fringes, what we're seeing is a reformation of the militia movement of the 1990s, which organized in large part over hysteria ratcheted up by Bill Clinton's gun-control measures, particularly the assault-weapons ban that passed in 1994. But there are a couple of twists this time around -- Barack Obama does not appear eager to push any gun-control measures through Congress for the time being, so the fear and paranoia required are even more ephemeral in their basis than in the '90s; and more importantly, the new militia is being constituted of a different base -- younger, more militant, more paranoid, and more likely to have an actual military background.
A lot of this organizing is happening quietly, and the Internet is playing a key role. Among the more common places you'll find militiamen networking is at Web social-networking platforms like MySpace.
Much of the networking is going on at private pages that you need permission to access, but others are public. For instance, there's this site, run evidently by an ex-Marine from Colorado, which features discussion of such subjects as "Training a Survival of Militia Group, Part 1."
A common organizational theme popping up among the new militiamen -- you'll find it scattered throughout the above site -- is "Μολών Λaβέ" -- or "Molon labe," which is Greek for "Come and get them." As Wikipedia notes, it's the sentimental equivalent of "Over my dead body."
I have voted in Safety Joe's poll for the next friend's list he should make and I have suggested a state by state Μολών Λaβέ so that those who are near each other can prepare a response plan.
We grossly outnumber them - if we organize. How can 5, 10, 20, or even 30 cops stand down every Μολών Λaβέ patriot who bands together in defense of each other?
Talk is nice but now is the time for action. Organize with your geographically close Μολών Λaβέ friend and prepare a response plan.
Another glimpse into this mindset can be found at the MySpace website for Come and Take It Radio:
Join hosts Matt Conner and Erin Cassity as they proudly lead the way into the dark bleak abyss that will be the Obama Presidency as the drum beating leftys that have joined with us for the past eight years run off into the shadows to back pedal and support Obama's wars for the Elite. We will speak the truth that the true "Conservative" will be so desperately seeking in this new age of world governance. Everything from preserving our gun rights to how to prepare for the fun of the looming depression, these Texas Nationalists will cover in this Sunday evening show.
If you scroll around the site (recommended only for those with a shower handy), you'll find posts from likeminded souls, such as the white supremacist who posted this:
[Full-size version here.]
Of course, this bubbling cauldron has ramifications for the nation down the road. There's been a lot of discussion already of the increased security around Barack Obama at his inauguration this week:
Federal agents are on “a higher state of alert” because of hate talk by white supremacists about Barack Obama’s inauguration, officials told the Daily News on Tuesday.
“That chatter is out there, no doubt about it,” one senior FBI agent in Washington said this afternoon, adding that no credible plots against the 56th Presidential Inauguration have been detected.
The Bureau has ordered agents in all 56 field offices to “shake the trees” in advance of the Jan. 20 swearing-in of the 44th President, who will become the first African-American to occupy the Oval Office.
“They’re talking to sources to determine if there is any threat information in regard to the Inauguration,” the FBI source said.
“Everybody in law enforcement dealing with that particular (white supremacist) ‘clientele’ is on a higher state of alert,” a senior agent at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives told The News.
The ATF has expertise infiltrating white supremacist groups. A classified threat assessment for the Inauguration by the FBI and Homeland Security Department citing agitated hate groups was sent to police agencies this week.
Counterterrorism officials have also picked up chatter from Islamic militants, but the agitated domestic hate groups are “the big concern,” said another FBI official.
A CNN report today had more details:
[I]nterest in racist ideology was so high right after the election that computer servers for two White supremacist Web sites crashed, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups.
But the violence and interest soon subsided. Leaders within the white supremacist movement are now seeking to capitalize on Obama's presidency by using his election to help grow their organizations.
"President-elect Obama is going to be the spark that arouses the 'white movement,' " reads a posting on the National Socialist Movement Web site. "Obama's win is our win. We should all be happy of this event."
In an interview posted on his Web site on election night, former Louisiana state Rep. David Duke said Obama's election "is good in one sense -- that it is making white people clear of the fact that that government in Washington, D.C., is not our government."
"We are beginning to learn and realize our positioning," Duke, a prominent white supremacist, later said in the election night recording. "And our position is that we have got to stand up and fight now."
The extra precautions this week are only sensible, given the magnitude of the event. But as you can see, most of the rhetoric around his ascendance to the presidency isn't focused on harming Obama but rather in "resisting" his "New World Order" rule.
All of which suggests that the danger in these trends lies not this week, and probably not in an assassination plot (though that certainly is plausible too), but rather over the longer term, and the threat is directed more toward government generically, especially including law enforcement. But as we have seen with other right-wing lone-wolf avengers -- like Tim McVeigh or Eric Rudolph -- that animus often translates in action into a lot of dead and injured innocent citizens.
In other words, given the security womb around him, Barack Obama will probably be fine. The rest of us, however, will need to be watchful and alert.