August 20, 2009

Yesterday on Hardball, Chris Matthews had on John Velleco, who's listed as the "Director of Federal Affairs" for the Gun Owners of America, a gun-rights group that makes the NRA look relatively sane in comparison. (That's probably the reason for their existence.)

And Velleco, of course, does not disappoint. Matthews hammers him for about four minutes, trying to get him to answer a simple question: If you were a Secret Service officer, would you let everyone carry a gun into a presidential event? It seems like an absurd question, but Velleco actually answers it affirmatively.

But then, that shouldn't be terribly surprising. As hate-group expert Brian Levin, the second guest, tries to explain, the GOA has a long history of right-wing extremism, dating back to the days in the 1980s when it was part of Willis Carto's white-nationalist operation. The main figure in all this was GOA's longtime and current leader, Larry Pratt.

Moreover, as the ADL explains, Pratt actually played a critical role in the formation of the militia movement in the 1990s:

In 1992, Larry Pratt, leader of a radical gun- rights group [the GOA] and an advocate of the formation of militias, issued a statement in the wake of the Rodney King riots urging the Los Angeles Police Department to "take advantage of what the Founding Fathers called the unorganized militia" in order to forestall further unrest. Many people initially joined the fledgling militia movement largely as a way to protect more aggressively their right to bear arms; even today, gun-related issues dominate many of the newsletters published by militia groups.

The SPLC has more on Pratt:

Larry Pratt, a gun rights absolutist whose Gun Owners of America (GOA) has been described as "eight lanes to the right" of the National Rifle Association, may well be the person who brought the concept of citizen militias to the radical right.

In 1990, Pratt wrote a book, Armed People Victorious, based on his study of "citizen defense patrols" used in Guatemala and the Philippines against Communist rebels — patrols that came to be known as death squads for their murderous brutality.

Picturing these groups in rosy terms, Pratt advocated similar militias in the United States — an idea that finally caught on when he was invited for a meeting of 160 extremists, including many famous white supremacists, in 1992.

It was at that meeting, hosted in Colorado by white supremacist minister Pete Peters, that the contours of the militia movement were laid out.

Pratt, whose GOA has grown since its 1975 founding to some 150,000 members today, hit the headlines in a big way when his associations with Peters and other professional racists were revealed, convincing arch-conservative Pat Buchanan to eject him as a national co-chair of Buchanan's 1996 presidential campaign.

The same year, it emerged that Pratt was a contributing editor to a periodical of the anti-Semitic United Sovereigns of America, and that his GOA had donated money to a white supremacist attorney's group.

Pratt is today close to the extremist Constitution Party and its radical theology.

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