The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Department of Homeland Security Secretary (DHS) Janet Napolitano today that warned of "patriot groups" and domestic terrorism.
"The number of conspiracy-minded antigovernment 'Patriot' groups on the American radical right reached an all-time high in 2012, the fourth consecutive year of powerful growth by a movement that is becoming increasingly militant as President Obama enters his second term and Congress debates gun control measures," the SPLC said in a press release today.
In the letter, the SPLC asked the department to "establish an interagency task force to assess the adequacy of the resources devoted to responding to the growing threat of non-Islamic domestic terrorism."
The SPLC said that there were 149 militias and "radical antigovernment groups" in 2008, but that the number increased to 1,360 in 2012. The SPLC said that the increased numbers are tied to the gun control debate. It also cited the case of a Tennessee man who threatened to "start killing people" if President Obama signed any executive orders to take weapons away from law abiding citizens. The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security suspended James Yeager's handgun carry permit after the department watched his video on YouTube.
"In the last four years, we have seen a tremendous increase in the number of conspiracy-minded, antigovernment groups as well as in the number of domestic terrorist plots," SPLC President and CEO J. Richard Cohen wrote."As in the period before the Oklahoma City bombing, we now also are seeing ominous threats from those who believe the government is poised to take their guns."
The letter goes on to say that there is also a "high level" of "neo-Nazi and racist skinhead groups" that may be a result of "comprehensive immigration reform."
In an article on the SPLC website, the center attempted to tie groups wanting to preserve the second amendment with racism. Mark Potok wrote, "Anger over the idea of four more years under a black, Democratic president — and, even more explosively, the same kinds of gun control efforts that fueled the militia movement of the 1990s — seems already to be fomenting another Patriot spurt."
"In light of these questions and the disturbing trends we have described in this letter, we believe it is time to take a fresh look at the issue," Cohen wrote.