How Much Political Violence Can We Absorb?


A few years ago, I spent a day with the Michigan Militia at a campground where they were holding their monthly meeting and shoot. This is the group that Timothy McVeigh hung out with before he went down to Oklahoma City and blew up the Murrah Federal Building in 1995.

What impressed me most of all was the pizzas – quantity and quality. The cheese with extra mushrooms and onions was – non pareille!

I was thinking about that experience yesterday while I joined a seminar on ‘The deadly intersection of white supremacy and firearms,’ hosted and planned by the gun research group at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Much of the contributions by various researchers involved issues directly related to the behavior of armed militia groups like the Michigan Militia, a topic of almost obsessive interest following the involvement of various militia groups in the January 6th insurrection.

What did I learn about the intersection between white supremacy and guns over the past couple of years? To be blunt – not a goddamn thing. That militia members who run around in their camo outfits waving their assault rifles are on the far, far right when it comes to their political beliefs?  Gee, that’s a discovery. That most gun owners are conservative and will exclaim the importance of the 2nd Amendment at the drop of a hat? Another new discovery, okay?

One of yesterday’s presenters was Garen Wintemute, who published an article based on walking around 78 gun shows in 19 states. I quote: “Perhaps the most disturbing political activity at gun shows, because of its content and high prevalence, concerns identity politics.”

What are these politics? I quote again: “New Nazi materials (as distinct from memorabilia) are very common.”

Wintemute visited these gun shows between 2005 and 2008. Most of the persons attending the shows were white men of 50 years old or older. Did it occur to Wintemute that most of these men were the sons of World War II veterans?

My father was a Navy vet from World War II. When I was growing up, Dad and his buddies spent every weekend reminiscing about the war. They never talked abut anything else because those years were the greatest years of their lives. And by the way, if Wintemute were to revisit those gun shows today, I guarantee you that he would find that a lot of the vendors who were selling Nazi crap in 2005 are now selling crap from Viet Nam.

Wintemute’s presentation yesterday was based on a survey he has just conducted with 8,200 respondents covering their political views and identity politics today. He has found that ‘support’ for violent political change is strongest among gun owners, except there’s only one little problem.

Wintemute never asked his respondents to define what they meant when they used the word ‘support.’ Does it mean that when someone calls them up and asks them if they like the Boogaloo Boys they’ll say ‘yes?’ Does it mean they’ll send in a few bucks to help some asshole who was arrested for stealing Nancy Pelosi’s desk calendar cover his legal costs? Does it mean actually showing up at a rally of some militia group and marching down the street?

We don’t know, and Wintemute made no attempt to explain this issue in yesterday’s commentary at all. But what we got from virtually every speaker was the belief that violence committed by armed, alt-right militia groups is bad and will get worse.

One of the presenters reported that she had interviewed 60 public figures and 40 reported that they had received some kind of violent threat from someone on the alt-right. How many of these threats actually involved the appearance or brandishing of a gun? None.

Another researcher has been studying data collected by an outfit called the Armed Conflict Location and Advanced Data Project (ACLED) which tracks violence which occurs at political events. I wrote a column about this issue back in December, and I noted that there were some 30,000 political demonstrations in the U.S. between January 2020 and June 2021, of which less than 2 percent involved the appearance of a gun.

During this same period, there appears to have been 9 deaths of demonstrators or onlookers at public, political events. Other than the 2 poor bastards shot by Kyle Rittenhouse (who was not a member of any militia group), it’s not even clear how many of the other 7 victims were killed by someone using a gun, and according to an article in The Guardian, these deaths may have actually been deadly crimes committed during political demonstrations which had no connection to any political activity at all.

What yesterday’s seminar demonstrated is that liberal academics who study gun violence seem to have political violence allegedly tied to gun ownership on the brain. But I can’t blame them, given the degree to which this theme runs through the liberal news media as well. I wish I had a nickel for every story which ran prior to the 2022 election predicting that Election Day would be rife with violence and attempts by armed groups to create a sense of intimidation and fear.

Know what? Here’s what the Christian Science Monitor had to say about what happened last November at the polls: “There was no violence. At least for now, the serious threats that loomed over democracy heading into Election Day – domestic extremist violence, voter intimidation, and Republican refusal to respect election outcomes – did not materialize in any pervasive way.”

Obviously, when we had a President who promoted and glorified political violence on a non-stop basis for five years, nobody’s going to argue that the rhetoric surrounding politics and political activity is the same as it used to be. But the whole point of doing academic research is to make clear and convincing distinctions between what really happens as opposed to what we would like to believe.

Yesterday’s online seminar presented by the Bloomberg Public Health School was an exercise in advocacy which wasn’t backed up by valid research and therefore just added to the cacophony of liberal complaints about how Americans own too many guns.

Shouldn’t we be able to get at least a little bit beyond that idea?

Is The Wolverine Militia Our First Line of Defense?

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Meanwhile, the trial of the four members of the – ready? – Wolverine Watchmen paramilitary gang who are accused of plotting to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer in 2020 is going on in a Federal court in Grand Rapids, MI with opening testimony from two FBI agents who infiltrated the group. 

              The defense, of course, is claiming that the FBI agents were not only present when kidnapping plans were being hatched, but in fact were the instigators of the whole, crazy thing. It’s already been admitted in court that many of the conversations that were secretly taped took place while everyone in the room was getting high on a doobie. Next thing we’ll learn is that the FBI supplied the dope.

              The four guys charged in this case must have a collective, not individual IQ of 79.  Can there really be such schmucks walking around? And worse yet, can guys who are this friggin’ stupid walk into a gun store and buy a gun?

              One of the defendants not connected to the Wolverines but charged after January 6th was a kid named Anthony Antonio, who claimed he went to D.C. to storm the Capitol at Trump’s request. His attorney had a slightly different story to go along with his client’s ‘not guilty’ plea – in the courtroom he said that Antonio was a ‘dumb ass,’ but out in the street he was a little more precise, referring to his client as ‘dumb as shit.’

              Ever since Donald Trump decided to enlist groups like the Three Percenters and The Proud Boys as his shock troops for the 2020 campaign, there have been endless stories in the media about how paramilitary organizations, usually referred to as ‘citizens militias’ not only represent a threat to law and order but are actually planning to engage in a 22nd-Century version of the 19th-Century Civil War.

              These militia groups first got noticed when Timothy McVeigh hung out with the Michigan Militia before going down to Oklahoma City and blowing up the Murrah Federal Building in 1995. The Wolverine group is one of a number of militia groups which have sprung up over the past few years in Michigan and elsewhere. Their website is remarkable in that it doesn’t contain an online store. 

              What the website does contain, on the other hand, is a 36-page, single-spaced Handbook, which not only contains a very academic argument about the historic origins of militias going back to before the Revolutionary War (complete with footnotes) but references the usual hodge-podge of Libertarian philosophy (Hayek, etc.) as well as a listing of all the sins and transgressions of the national government, particularly the whole notion that any kind of taxes are both illegal and wrong.

              There is also a whole and very detailed section on the militia’s organization, starting at the top with a State Commander and staff, then nine operational divisions covering different regions of the state and specific officer titles including Air Operations, Ground Operations and Special Operations.

              Finally, the website also contains a calendar of upcoming training events, which includes a swap meet, something called Escape and Evasion and a day for Community Service although the actual service activity isn’t explained. For that matter, the calendar gives months and days but not a specific year, so who knows if any of this stuff is actually real?

              At some point, I don’t recall exactly which year, I found myself in Michigan with time to spare so I drove out to a shooting range where some members of the original Michigan Militia were shooting off their guns. I was impressed by two things:

              First, although I tend to walk around with an extra 20 pounds on my frame, I was a real slim-jim compared with most of the members of this group.  These guys weren’t just heavy, they were guys who really love to eat. And I happened to arrive at the range just in front of a car that was carrying a stack of fresh-cooked pizzas, along with potato chips, Fritos, and drinks.

              The second thing which impressed me about the group was that there was absolutely no talk at all about invasions or terrorist threats or anything else. There was talk about the weekend sale at the local Walmart and where someone had just bought a set of tires for their truck.

              Don’t get me wrong. I’ll let the jury in Grand Rapids decide whether those four schmucks are guilty of planning to kidnap the Governor or are guilty of just being loud and dumb. But if anyone thinks that the militia movement poses a threat to the government, like Joe says, they better show up with their F-15.

Why Can’t We Use The Militia To Defend Ourselves?


Now that the Bundy Militia has decided that eating dinner at home is better than freezing in the administration building on the Malheur Preserve, I decided to spend a bit of time reading about the whole notion of militias, if only because the bunch at Malheur seem convinced that they represent some kind of unquestioned Constitutional mandate to protect liberty and justice forever.

rubio               Actually, if the modern-day Boy Scouts who go out on weekends and play soldier boy in some gravel pit with their AR rifles would take the trouble to read the Constitution, they might actually discover that as members of a militia they are first and foremost required to follow the dictates of their most hated enemy, a.k.a., Barack Obama, who happens to be Commander in Chief.  I quote from Article II, Section 2, Clause 1 which says: “The President shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States.”

But why let facts or legal texts stand in the way of shooting your mouth off on Fox News?  And it stands to reason that the group at Malheur would call themselves a militia since the modern militia movement has descended directly from anti-government ‘patriot’ groups which, if traced back to their origins, bear a certain clear resemblance to racialist groups which go all the way back to the Ku Klux Klan.  How could it be otherwise when Ammon Bundy’s father Cliven was about to be lionized by Sean Hannity until he screwed up the whole thing by saying, “Let me tell you about your Negro,” followed by a few other choice words.

In this respect, I just read an interesting Letter to the Editor of the Kansas City Star. The author pointed out that the Kansas State Constitution requires the Legislature to organize and equip the state’s militia, and he was wondering (obviously tongue-in-cheek) whether this meant that the Legislature had to supply these self-styled militias with guns.  It’s an interesting concept when you think about it, because currently 23 states have organized militias, usually referred to as State Defense Forces, which can be pressed into service if the National Guard units have been deployed somewhere else. And although such units are sanctioned by Title 32 of the U.S. Code, they are wholly volunteer outfits serving solely at the discretion and direction of state officials, normally the Governor and the Adjutant General who also commands the National Guard.

Not surprisingly, these modern-day militias tend to be called out in response to natural disasters, more than 2,000 SDF personnel participated in rescue and cleanup efforts after Hurricane Katrina, to cite one very important case. On the other hand, SDF units do not receive any regular training nor do the Feds provide any dough for weapons or other equipment and supplies.  Know what happens when a state government has to bear the entire cost of any program?  There usually isn’t a program.

Maybe the Bundy boys and their militia buddies aren’t really so off the mark when they claim to be standing up for their Constitutional rights against the abusive power of the Feds.  After all, wasn’t it Rick Perry who, as Governor of Texas, raised the possibility that Texas might secede?  Which means he would need some kind of armed force to make good on his threat, which means maybe he would use the state militia, which means that the Bundy brothers and their gang could drive down to Texas, volunteer for militia service and finally get a chance to use all those AR rifles to defend their God-given rights.

If you are thinking that I’m just having a little fun because Donald Trump lost the Iowa primary you’re right.  But let’s remember that it was Marco Rubio who took a day off from campaigning to buy a gun as a response to the looming ISIS threat. You think the boys at Malheur are the only crazy ones around?


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