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New Republic - July 2, 2019

"Trump deserves most of the blame for this particular uptick in gun sales. In March, hetoldBreitbart***, “I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump—I have the tough people … it would be very bad, very bad,” if his followers decided to “play it tough.” In those remarks, some saw not Trumpian “swagger or machismo,” Adrian Bonenberger, an Afghanistan combat veteran, writer, and member of the Socialist Rifle Association told me, but “an incredibly thinly veiled threat.”***

Liberals are notoriously loath to take their own side in a fight. But their reticence may well be changing in an age of vigilante, white nationalist terror—openly condoned and supported by an incumbent president who has suggested that his armed devotees won’t stand for his removal from office. Increasingly, the antifa left is arguing—and training—in response. They are worried not only about an armed reckoning following a contested election, but also about rising violence from the paramilitaries loyal to President Donald Trump.

Consider the tense political climate in the Pacific Northwest, where Washington state Representative Matt Shea, a dough-faced Christian dominionist from Spokane, made news last year when his instructions on how to build a “holy army” that would kill “all males” who refused to submit to biblical law leaked to the press. “Assassination to remove tyrants is just, not murder,” he wrote. The tyrant he referred to was not Trump, of course, but the communists he imagined running the government. 

Such paranoid fantasies may be familiar to heavy consumers of YouTube and Reddit, but watching them transposed on to the structures of governance is a novelty. As a result, many leftists and even some liberals are beginning to reconsider their feelings about firearms, joining a loose amalgamation of gun groups, from John Brown Gun Clubs (which take their name from the abolitionist) to the Pink Pistols (an LGBTQ group), Liberal Gun Club, and Socialist Rifle Association. Some of these organizations are moderate and traditionalist, others radical and revolutionary. But all share one implicit goal: to normalize firearms ownership and training among liberals. Some of their members hope such efforts will at least make Republicans think twice before attempting a massacre.

Whether that approach will inflame political violence—especially in hot spots like the Pacific Northwest—or deter it remains uncertain. In April, Shea spoke at an “open carry” rally in Olympia, which drew hundreds of people, many armed with AR-15s and shotguns. About ten members of the Puget Sound John Brown Gun Club were also there, handing out flyers mocking Shea and another speaker, Joey Gibson of Patriot Prayer, who, they said, “attracted and embraced” rapists, pedophiles, and skinheads. “Want to defend your community from people like Matt Shea?” one flyer asked. At the moment, the Puget Sound JBGC, which was founded less than four months after Trump took office, has around 30 active members. But its firearms safety and marksmanship workshops fill up faster every time the club hosts them. Full members undergo lengthy vetting, but anyone can come learn how guns work, what the parts are, and how to handle them safely, before going to the range and learning to shoot. “We’re talking about white liberals, mostly women, who are like ‘let’s get this class going,’” the club’s founder, Duke Aaron, said. “Two years ago these people would be like ‘Guns? This is terrible.’ That’s not the reaction now.”
Read full report at New Republic