November 12, 2019
The new gun-control law in Washington has, predictably, generated opposition. Some of that has come from the usual suspects. The NRA and The Second Amendment Foundation have sued, claiming that it violates various constitutional provisions.
A small meeting of opponents of the law brought together two other factions which, in their different ways, demonstrate the growing tendency of the right wing of American culture and politics to separate itself into a hostile, potentially dangerous camp. The Seattle Times described the meeting: “So intense is the distress over new firearms regulations in the state, and [Attorney General] Ferguson’s support of them, that a group of 35 or so came together to discuss what many saw as a constructive next step: Go to court to file citizen complaints against Ferguson or maybe even attempt a citizen’s arrest of him.”
The first group consisted of members of the local branch of the Three Percenters, an organization marked by paranoia about government oppression. The name of the organization refers to its “rough estimate that only 3% of the colonists were actively fighting in the field” against the British during the Revolution. The Three Percenters see themselves as descendants of that small patriotic band.
The web site of Washington chapter states: “We are God fearing Patriots that support our constitution, and promise to defend our country, our community, and our families from all enemies foreign and domestic. We follow the tenants [sic] set forth by the founder of the Three Percent movement, Mike Vanderboegh.” Their By Laws recite that “Our goal is to utilize the fail safes put in place by our founders to reign [sic] in an overreaching government and push back against tyranny.” Diction obviously is not the organization’s long suit. First on its list of oaths is “I will NOT obey orders to disarm the American people.” Rational gun control is, apparently, disarming.
The site links to that of “The Sipsey Street Irregulars,” which contains a long “Catechism” for Three Percenters written by Vanderboegh. It includes this:
The Three Percent today are gun owners who will not disarm, will not compromise and will no longer back up at the passage of the next gun control act. . . . We intend to maintain our God-given natural rights to liberty and property, and that means most especially the right to keep and bear arms. Thus, we are committed to the restoration of the Founders' Republic, and are willing to fight, die and, if forced by any would-be oppressor, to kill in the defense of ourselves and the Constitution that we all took an oath to uphold against enemies foreign and domestic.
One of those at the meeting said, of Ferguson, “I want to see him go to prison for treason. But I wanted the backing of the sheriff, because I don’t want to get shot by the state police.” Anyone on the other side is guilty of treason; an armed confrontation is coming: these are the elements of a dangerous and increasingly common mind set.
Will his sheriff protect him? That’s a possibility. Sheriffs present at the meeting and in the background form the second group. At the meeting, the Sheriff of Thurston County claimed he has the power to swear in a militia. He said he would not do so at present, but merely claiming that probably non-existent power hints at violent separatism.
Following a reference to the Sheriff’s statement, a Times editorial on the meeting described a comment by Gary Edwards, a Thurston County Commissioner: “Edwards, a former sheriff, went further, warning of dire consequences if President Donald Trump cannot thoroughly pack the courts. ‘If we’re not lucky, we might have a revolution,’ Edwards said.” The relevance of the court-packing reference wasn’t explained in the editorial but, whether or not connected to gun control, Edwards’ comment is more divisive rhetoric.
Thirteen of Washington’s thirty-nine County Sheriffs have declared that they will not enforce the new gun-control law, or parts of it. One declared: “My job as a sheriff is to throw bad guys in jail, but it’s also to protect the constitutional rights of citizens of our county. I follow the rule of law when I believe it’s constitutional.” I wonder whether he would tolerate that selective attitude in the public. That position demonstrates the irrational extremes to which gun-rights thinking drives people. Law enforcement officers, confronted not only by the usual level of crime, but by a flood of guns and the separatist fantasies of people like Three Percenters, ought to be the last to oppose controlling that flood.
Trump, on September 29, launched a tweet, in part quoting a statement by an evangelical supporter, which feeds those fantasies and encourages thoughts of violence: “If the Democrats are successful in removing the President from office (which they will never be), it will cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal.” They’ll never get me, but if they do, rise up.
81. https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/discontent-over-washington-gun-laws- leads-group-to-talk-of- citizens-arrest-of-bob-ferguson/
85. https://www.seattletimes.com/opinion/editorials/divisive-issues-no-excuse-for-revolution- talk-from-elected- officials/
86. https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/voters-said-yes-to-tough-new-gun-law-at- least- 12-county- sheriffs-say-they-wont-enforce-it/