Demonstrators pray during a pro-gun rally at the main entrance to the Georgia State Capitol on Friday, Feb. 8, 2013, in Atlanta. Groups have been staging similar rallies across the country to protest gun restrictions.
(USA TODAY) -- The number of militias and radical anti-government "patriot" groups
operating in the USA reached an all-time high in 2012, a report Tuesday
by the Southern Poverty Law Center finds.
The center tracked 1,360
radical militias and anti-government groups in 2012, a nine-fold
increase over 2008 when the center recorded 149 such groups, the report
says. The explosive growth began four years ago, sparked by the election
of President Obama and anger about the poor economy, the center says.
President Obama enters his second term with an agenda of gun control
and immigration reform, the rage on the right is likely to intensify,"
the center's senior fellow Mark Potok writes in the report.
rhetoric and threat of domestic terrorist plots mirror the mood observed
in the six months before the Oklahoma City bombing, a domestic terror
attack in 1995 by anti-government militia sympathizer Timothy McVeigh
that killed 168 people, center president J. Richard Cohen says in a
letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary
"In the last four years we have seen a
tremendous increase in the number of conspiracy-minded, anti-government
groups as well as in the number of domestic terrorist plots," Cohen
writes. "We now also are seeing ominous threats from those who believe
that the government is poised to take their guns."
The number of
anti-government groups grew 7% from 1,274 in 2011 to 1,360 in 2012,
while the number of hate groups dropped slightly from 1,018 in 2011 to
1,007 in 2012.
The latest count surpasses the record number of
groups formed in the 1990s in response to the 1993 passage of sweeping
gun control measures in the Brady Bill and the ban on assault weapons in
1994. In 1996, the number of "patriot" groups peaked at 858, the center
The center predicts the ongoing gun control debate will
continue to fuel anti-government anger and swell the ranks of the
radical groups. The groups generally believe the federal government is
conspiring to confiscate all guns and curtail personal liberties, the
center says. Some of the groups have threatened politicians who have
proposed gun control measures, the report says.
The report cites
examples of groups that predicted civil war and tyranny after Obama's
executive orders on gun control, including Fox News Radio host Todd
Starnes who tweeted, " Freedom ends. Tyranny begins." and
ConservativeDaily.com's Tony Adkins, who wrote, "Martial law in the
United States now a very real possibility."
The center quotes The
United States Patriots Union, which, in a letter to state legislators,
called the federal government "a tool of International Socialism now,
operating under UN Agendas not our American agenda." The group said
states should defend freedom and liberty "or we are headed to Civil War
wherein the people will have no choice but to take matters into their
"Their rhetoric is a barometer of the rage that is building in certain quarters," Cohen says.