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Rise of extremist groups and lax gun restrictions connected, groups argue in new report


by Michael Lyle, Nevada Current

Amid the latest calls by groups wanting more federal and state action on firearm regulations, progressive organizations are laying out their latest appeal for tougher restrictions – make it harder for white supremacists and anti-government extremists to get guns. 

The Institute for a Progressive Nevada and the Center for American Progress released a report Wednesday saying the rise of anti-government extremism and white supremacy is being fueled by lax gun restrictions. 

The groups called on Nevada lawmakers to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, prohibit guns at polling places, implement waiting periods for gun purchases and ensure people convicted under hate crime laws aren’t able to purchase firearms. 

Marissa Edmund, CAP senior policy analyst for gun violence prevention and co-author of the report, said Nevada has taken “steps in the right direction by enacting extreme risk protection order laws, trigger activator bans, and child access prevention laws.” 

“State policymakers must do more to close gaps in state law that allow potentially dangerous individuals to access guns,” Edmund said. 

President Joe Biden signed gun safety legislation in June in the wake of the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas where 19 children and two teachers were murdered. 

The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act provides funding for states that enact “red flag laws,” and closed the “boyfriend loophole” by establishing a five-year waiting period for purchasing a firearm if a person is convicted of assaulting a romantic partner.

While it is the first gun safety measure to pass Congress in years, gun safety advocates as well as Democrats who voted for the legislation acknowledge it’s not enough and fails to get to the root of the problem. 

Weeks before Uvalde, an 18-year-old white male, who had previously promoted the racist belief known as the great replacement theory – sometimes referred to as “white replacement theory” –  killed 10 Black people and injured three others at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York.

“Gun violence prevention advocates had cautioned for months that the dangerous rhetoric could manifest in violent, deadly extremism,” wrote Edmund and her co-authors in the report, “however, many did not heed the warning.”

The most alarming display of anti-government extremism referenced in the report was the attempted insurrection on Jan. 6. 

The U.S. House panel investigating Donald Trump’s role in attempting to overturn the 2020 presidential election with the aid of extremist groups such as the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers.

KUNR reported in March that former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who is running for U.S. Senate, has embraced support from members of far-right extremist groups, including rural sheriffs clinging to a fringe belief that in their counties they have legal supremacy over state and federal law. 

Laxalt has also peddled the “great replacement theory” on the campaign trail.

Nevada, as the authors note, has myriad examples of armed anti-government extremists acting violently. 

Cliven Bundy began an armed standoff with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in 2014. That same year, two police officers were shot and killed by anti-government right-wing extremists who boasted that they had been involved in the confrontation with federal officials.

Annette Magnus, the executive director for Battle Born Progress, and also a co-author of the report, said Nevada is already “seeing how the anti-public lands and anti-government movement has bled into today’s violent, white supremacist extremism.”

“Combined with how easy it is to access firearms in Nevada, this has already been shown to have devastating impacts in the state, including mass shootings, gun homicides, and violence against police officers,” she said. 

The report comes at the same time some congressional Democrats are attempting to revive a ban on certain semi-automatic weapons. 

The U.S. House Judiciary Committee voted on a recent bill placing a ban on assault weapons, but it remains to be seen if there are enough votes to advance the legislation further. 

U.S. Rep. Susie Lee told Nevada Current in May she wasn’t sure efforts to ban assault weapons “would get past the House right now, sadly.”

Authors of the report are hoping Nevada lawmakers could also put forward more legislation addressing gun violence.  

Nevada, they said, has made improvements that include strengthening background checks on gun sales, but the state doesn’t “regulate assault weapons or high-capacity magazines, and individuals with misdemeanor hate crimes are still able to purchase a gun.”

Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence gives Nevada a C+ rating when it comes to gun laws.

According to the report, in Nevada “individuals with misdemeanor hate crimes are still able to purchase a gun.”

“This is particularly troubling because many anti-government and right-wing extremists have been known to stockpile weapons and ammunition,” the authors wrote.

Aside from preventing extremists groups from accessing guns, the report notes Nevada has the 18th highest rate of firearm-related deaths in the country with 17 gun deaths per 100,000. 

The groups argue that implementing longer wait times between when a person purchases a firearm and acquires the gun could prevent “rage-fueled homicides,” and banning guns at polling places would protect residents from voter intimidation. 

Nevada Current is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Nevada Current maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Hugh Jackson for questions: [email protected]. Follow Nevada Current on Facebook and Twitter.

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