Police in Arkansas say nine of the 44 people arrested in a drug and weapons investigation this Wednesday were member of  local white-supremacist gangs. Twenty-five pounds of methamphetamine and 69 firearms were seized in the operation, the latest of many examples of right-wing and racist extremists implicated in violations of federal gun laws.

The arrests were part of an effort to curb drug trafficking and violent crime in Pope and Yell counties. The white supremacists were allegedly members of two prison gangs, the New Aryan Empire and White Aryan Resistance.

The bust took place just two months after Florida police arrested five people on drug and gun charges in a home where investigators found “hundreds of pages of American Nazi Family propaganda,” put out by an Aryan Brotherhood-related group. The August raid yielded meth and four firearms. Two of the defendants were charged with being felons in possession of a firearm and possession with intent to deliver or sell an altered firearm.

In May, members of a Pennsylvania group called Aryan Strikeforce were indicted on a range of federal charges including conspiracy to distribute machine gun parts, possession of firearms by a felon and meth trafficking.

Last August, a counterterrorism investigation resulted in the arrest of a Louisiana militia leader, who distributed meth and sold a semiautomatic rifle to an undercover cop claiming to be a felon. The criminal complaint alleged the defendant had 80 weapons in gun safes on his property along with numerous buried gun caches and a personal firing range.

Right-wing extremists of various stripes often fixate on guns, though for different reasons.

Militias frequently stockpile guns and place weapons at the center of their ideology, because they see them as safeguards against government intrusion. Amy Cooter, a Vanderbilt University sociologist who has studied militias, says: “For most of these groups, the beliefs really center around the Second Amendment. It’s supposed to protect the First Amendment.” 

For explicitly racist groups, guns serve a less defensive purpose, says Patrik Hermansson, a Swedish anti-racism activist who went undercover with American hate groups earlier this year. He said in an email that guns were “very important” and even “central” to the racists’ ideology. As he explained, white supremacists stockpile weapons in anticipation of “a coming ‘race war.’”