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Disarming Republican Anarchists

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While most Americans were horrified by the December 14 th murders of 26 innocents at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, many observers believe Washington lacks the will to curb gun violence.   Multiple excuses have been offered for the difficulty of enacting gun control legislation, but the most obvious problem has not been mentioned: the US contains millions of Republican anarchists.  These ultra-conservatives fear the government and buy guns for protection.  Their Tea Party Congressmen will do everything they can to block common-sense legislation.

Over the last five years, the Republican Party has veered to the far right and, in the process, been taken over by anarchists, Tea Party extremists who do not believe in centralized government.  As University of California linguistics professor, George Lakoff, observed, "[Ultra conservatives] believe that Democracy gives them the liberty to seek their own self-interests by exercising personal responsibility, without having responsibility for anyone else or anyone else having responsibility for them."  Republican Anarchists reject the Founder's morality, the sentiments that produced the Declaration of Independence and US Constitution. These ultra conservatives don't believe in the common good or the notion that Americans have a moral responsibility to care for each other.   But they do venerate the second amendment to the Constitution, "The right of the people to keep and bear arms."

As a consequence, America is an armed camp, "There are 89 guns for every 100 civilians" That amounts to roughly 270 million guns owned nationwide, far and away the highest gun ownership rate in the world."  But the guns are unevenly distributed.  About 35 percent of Americans personally own a gun.  "Around 80 percent of gun owners are men.  On average they own 7.9 guns each."

Republican Anarchists tend to live in Red states, where weapons are concentrated.  There's a disturbing relationship between gun prevalence, resistance to gun control, and anti-government rhetoric.  "The Daily Beast" ranked states by guns per capita (by comparing the number of NCIS background checks -- the process you go through when you buy a gun -- with the state population).  The top ten states are Kentucky, Montana, North Dakota, West Virginia, Alaska, Wyoming, South Dakota, Oklahoma, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin.  Most of these states rate among the top ten gun-friendly states.  Alaska and Wyoming are also among the top ten in firearms death rate.  Wyoming has the highest rate of gun ownership -- 59.7 percent of households report at least one gun -- and claims to have more guns than people (576,412).  While it has the 43rd lowest crime rate in the US, Wyoming also has the fourth highest rate of death by firearms.

Wherever there's a high percentage of gun ownership there is also pro-second-amendment rhetoric and inflammatory talk suggesting the federal government threatens individual freedom.  In January, gun-rights advocate, Kurt Hofmann, wrote an article, "Government prepares for war with the people, and mass media approves," in which he deplored a "forcible citizen disarmament campaign," and predicted the current wave of gun control legislation ultimately intends to seize the weapons of "patriots."

As the Republican Party has shifted to the right it has embraced groups that, a few years ago, were out of the mainstream: "Patriots," militias, and members of the "sovereign citizen" movement.  The Southern Poverty Law Center reports, "the number of conspiracy-minded antigovernment "Patriot' groups reached an all time high of 1360 in 2012."  The Patriot movement "believes that the federal government is conspiring to take Americans' guns and destroy their liberties as it paves the way for a global "one-world government.'"  It's not clear how many members' patriots and militia groups have, but the Southern Poverty Law Center estimates that the closely affiliated "sovereign" groups have between 100,000-300,000 members.  What these groups share is rejection of governmental authority; i.e. they are classic anarchists.

Since the election of Barack Obama these extremists have become more strident.  The Southern Poverty Law Center reported they share a common paranoia: President Obama will suspend the Constitution, declare martial law, and "force Socialism on the American people."

This is the dark background that underlies the gun control debate. There are 49 self-identified Tea Party members in the House of Representatives and four in the Senate, plus several dozen more "fellow travelers."  They represent the anarchists in opposing gun-control laws.  Recently, Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul proposed a law that would nullify any presidential gun-control actions.  Florida Republican Congressman Trey Radel suggested that if Obama takes executive action it would be grounds for impeachment.

Commonsense gun control legislation is anathema to Tea Party Republicans.  To the anarchists universal background checks suggests intrusive government surveillance.  To anarchists limiting magazine size or assault weapons is unacceptable; their guns are not for hunting, they are for self-defense.

That's why the current congress won't pass gun-control legislation.  The Republican anarchists are too powerful.  Indeed, nothing meaningful will happen until the GOP reinvents itself and disavows its anarchist wing.

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Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. In a previous life he was one of the executive founders of Cisco Systems.
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