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Gun debate may fuel rise in hate groups

According to a new report by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the number of "Patriot" groups is at an all-time high. The SPLC warns that the gun control...

Domestic terrorism: ‘Patriot’ hate groups skyrocket

Updated

The number of anti-government hate groups hit an all-time last year, according to data from the Southern Poverty Law Center.

These conspiracy-fueled groups have been on the rise over the last few years but hit a high of 1,360 “Patriot” groups in 2012, the Center’s new report found. Patriot groups believe “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.’”

When President Obama won the 2008 election, only 149 such groups existed. By the next year, anti-government groups skyrocketed to 512, then 824 in 2010, and 1,274 in 2011.

And the number of general hate groups slightly decreased from 1,018 in 2011 to 1,007 in 2012, the number of Patriot groups went up about 7% in the same time frame. 

The “growth has just been astounding over the last four years: 813% growth. We’ve never really seen anything like this in any of the groups that we count,” Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, said on msnbc’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell Wednesday. ”As gun control talk began in the wake of the slaughter in Newtown…[the] whole movement, these groups out there, have gone from sort of a red heat to white heat. So we are at a very scary moment. It is very reminiscent at least to me the months leading up to the Oklahoma City bombing.”

The Center defines the Oklahoma City bombing that left 168 men, women and children dead in 1995 as the first wave of the Patriot movement and the first time the public truly witnessed an action instigated from rage on the right. After the passage of the 1993 Brady Bill and the 1994 ban on assault weapons supported by President Bill Clinton, extreme right groups viewed the passage of gun control legislation as a threat to their beliefs.

Following President Obama’s election, anti-black racism in America has actually increased. A 2012 AP poll found 51% of Americans expressing explicit anti-black attitudes which rose from 48% in 2008, and 56% expressing implicit anti-black attitudes, up from 48% in 2008.

Since the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, the SPLC has counted more than 100 domestic radical-right plots, conspiracies and racist rampages.

“I think one other thing played into the enormous expansion of these groups in the last four years, aside from Obama’s appearance on the political scene, and that of course is the economy, which began to collapse at the very same time as Obama appeared running for president,” Potok said. ” That added an element of real fear and anger and insecurity that made for a kind of perfect storm in terms of fostering the growth of these groups. Now, with the gun control talk, it’s gotten even worse.”

The Center sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Attorney General Eric Holder Tuesday warning that the gun control debate may lead to dangerous actions from these groups:

The furious reaction to the Obama administration’s gun control proposals is reminiscent of the anger that greeted the passage of the 1993 Brady Bill and the 1994 ban on assault weapons… Now, in the wake of the mass murder of 26 children and adults at a Connecticut school and the Obama-led gun control efforts that followed, it seems likely that that growth will pick up speed once again.

Domestic terrorism: 'Patriot' hate groups skyrocket

Updated